Dear First Pres,

On Sunday we had Amelia, Stephen, Emma, David, Sheimeka, Hector, and Annie stand up in front of the congregation to be recognized. They served as our 2018 Summer Staffers. This week they concluded their service. It's always a bit sad for us to see them go as the summer ends. They always bring fresh energy and excitement to our congregation. They help our staff grow in leadership as we walk with them in ministry and life. And they add to the community of folks who are investing in our kids.
  One of our core values as a congregation is "transformational leadership." Our Summer Staff program is a hallmark of that value, as it has been for many years in its various forms. So, I praise God for another successful summer of ministry and growth!
  There are many differences between our current Summer Staff program and the various iterations of the past (Trainees, Networkers, etc.). In particular, our hand has been forced a bit by California employment law. This is one of the reasons why the program is now only a part-time employment opportunity. The summer staffers averaged about 25 hours per week this summer, and we paid them an entry level wage.
  One of the biggest impacts of a Summer Staff program that stays within the boundaries of employment law is that we no longer are sending our Summer Staff to serve as camp counselors. This has been true since we launched the current version of summer staff in 2014, and it still seems to be a surprise to folks in the congregation.  Hence the reason for highlighting it here. If we send our Summer Staffers to camp we'd have to pay them for their work time. With all the overtime implications it would cost us about $1800 per Summer Staffer per camp week. That's why we've chosen not to send them.
  This change means that we need folks in the congregation to volunteer their time to spend a life-changing week at camp with our students. It's a big deal. So I just want to highlight and give a huge thanks to those who volunteered this summer: Lori Meadors, Julia Crantz, and Jamey Tacchino.(Special thanks to Jamey who volunteered for two weeks in a row!!) I am so grateful for these volunteers as a parent and as a pastor. They made a huge impact this summer. If you see them, please say thanks. They did exactly what we need about six folks to do every summer: take a week of their own vacation to spend as a camp counselor with our kids. This year Camp Sugar Pine covered the gap for us with some of their summer staff folks (and by God's grace one of our own, Sophia Steele, was placed with our Junior High and Elementary girls). But I hope next year we won't need to rely on Sugar Pine to cover the needs.
  This is such a great opportunity to pour into the lives of our young people in lasting ways. Is this form of discipleship something the Lord might be calling you to do? Turns out, you have some time to seek Him in this. May the Lord provide for His children in the coming months.

Blessings,
Jeremy 

P.S. As summer ends and school begins, I invite everyone to join in our Love Our Schools event this Sunday. Join your church in praying for our schools. We'll be on campus in the (cool) Fellowship Hall after each service (8:30 & 10:15, more details below). Please plan to stay for this special and important time. Plus, show your support by wearing some school colors.

Jeremy Vaccaro's picture
Jeremy Vaccaro
Senior Pastor

Dear First Pres,

   This is my second time as a Summer Staffer with FPC, and it has been a completely different experience. A lot of things have changed since the summer of 2016 when I last worked here. I am working with 4th-6th graders instead of High School; I am working in a team of three instead of two, and the content we bring to elementary children is on a different level than content for high school students, and rightly so! Not only are my job details different, I am also in a different place this summer. I am out of college, engaged to a wonderful woman, and feel called into youth ministry and seeking what that might look like.
   That is a lot of change! My life looks significantly different than it did just last year, let alone the summer of 2016. The thing that has not changed my entire life is my God. He is still calling me to run to Him. He still wants to show me more of who He is and how He is working in me to be more like His Son. I still have a lot of growing ahead of me, but I have a different focus this summer.
   Colossians 3:1-3 talks about where our focus should be. "Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God."(NIV) This summer, by God's grace alone, I have been more focused on "things above" as I speak with others about who God is and what He has done for us. I treat my family differently as I live with them again. I am free to be encouraging, trusting, and joyful with them because my life is not defined by my interactions with others. It is defined solely by God's call on me and the worth that I have in Christ.

Blessings,
Stephen Goodale
Elementary Summer Staffer

Jeremy Vaccaro's picture
Jeremy Vaccaro
Senior Pastor

 

by Meagan Bergem, Director of Ignite Jr. High Ministries 

    Summer Camp is a meaningful opportunity for students to grow in their faith. Sugar Pine Christian Camp, north of Oakhurst, is a great partner of Ignite Jr. High Ministry. It is always a joy to connect with their staff while we are there. A highlight during my visits to camp this year, was witnessing our very own Sophia Steele (class of 2017) embrace her call into ministry by serving on Sugar Pine's Staff. She was even our students' Cabin Leader for the week! God is so good in the ways he knits things together, allowing Sophia to invest where she was once poured into. Discipleship is a lifelong journey, and I am praising God for the fruit in Sophia's life that is flourishing on behalf of the next generation.

   Read below a few reflections of Ignite student's camp experiences. 

   Lauren Mozier, 7th Grade: "At Sugar Pine Camp, I learned that I love being in God's presence. I experienced His presence in a new way during chapel and worship time. In His presence, I was able to feel a lot of different emotions at the same time and fully worship God. For a long time, I've know that God is with me even when I don't feel His presence. But being able to feel His presence in this new way, encourages me to be fully devoted to Him. It also encourages me to be a part of the youth worship team so I can help others experience God's presence. What I also learned is God is so powerful, and that He listens to us whether we question His ways or trust Him (like Joshua). I want to keep calling out to Him." 

   Elijah Rooney, 8th Grade: "I learned that I am incapable to be successful without God, no matter where or what situation I am in. I learned that God will always be there.  Not only just "be there," he will also be protecting, loving, caring, and watching over and for us. I learned that in the Christian faith, we need accountability to God and to our brothers and sisters in Christ. Christianity is like a plant, so if I plant the seed and put in the work, it's going to grow. In that way, I grow in my faith and help others to grow in their faith. God is incredible, but if people who know God's word to be true are lukewarm, he is not going to invest in us, but instead he will invest in people who are ready to be ignited for him."  

   Sophia Steele, (William Jessup University): "It was amazing being able to lead these girls. I had the privilege of witnessing the wisdom the young ladies have. Already, their stories can spread hope to those they've shared with. God reminded me of His faithful, relentless, and comforting presence through the hardest of times. He grows beautiful flowers from the very beginning of our relationship with Him in the harshest of soils. He truly is "God With Us". It was breathtaking seeing these lovely daughters making that discovery while at camp. I have no doubt in my mind that each and every one of these youth have the power to change the lives of those around them, especially with their stories of grace that God has already been weaving. They changed mine! Praise God." 

   "Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity." - 1 Tim 4:12

Anonymous

Dear First Pres,

   Two items of good news today:

   First, yesterday Pastor Andrew Brunson, for whom we've been praying while he spent the last two years in a Turkish prison because of false charges, has been moved to house arrest. This is a great step. Praise God! Now Andrew can be with his family and friends as he awaits his next hearing. However, we still need to pray for the Turkish government to drop the charges so that Pastor Andrew can continue in his ministry. For your prayer, you may read more about Andrew's current situation here.

   Second, on Monday I passed my dissertation defense! Yes! Praise be to God! I have a few edits & additions to make (which is standard operating procedure) and then I'll be completely done. I am so grateful - words just can't express it all - for the encouragement and support you have provided for me in this very long journey toward the PhD. It still hasn't quite sunk in that I'm here, but the staff is helping me. On Tuesday, it gave me great joy to come in and discover that my office had been decorated to celebrate. Much thanks to the staff. 

           

                                                            

   Especially fun was this "Certificate of About Time." Again, I am so grateful; I couldn't have made it this far without you.

   1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, "Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." These are the kind of circumstances that make it easy to give thanks. No matter what is happening in your life this week, I pray you are able to recognize the goodness and faithfulness of God. 

Blessings,

Jeremy

P.S.  We're also celebrating this week that Susan Glover has been on the church staff for 30 years. If you see her, please say thanks for her faithful and diligent service.  

 

Jeremy Vaccaro's picture
Jeremy Vaccaro
Senior Pastor

 

by Beth Paz 

   So much evil has been justified in the name of ‘missions.’ One can take a quick jog through recent history to find that in the name of Jesus Christ, many white North American Christian missionaries forced assimilation while disrespecting the cultural values of indigenous peoples. We preached a message of repentance mixed with messages of nationalism, patriarchy, and white acculturation resulting in damage especially to those people, but also to the integrity of the Gospel.

   I went on several mission trips as a youth and wanted to be a missionary when I grew up. It might have been better if I just expressed my love of travel, adventure and different cultures from the beginning. But, God used short term missions to shape me; in the Mexican migrant farm workers camp of Mt. Vernon, WA, my heart was opened to embrace others from a different background for the first time. A summer with our evangelistic European choir and drama team made the world come alive; I dedicated my whole life to ministry to God.

   Now, about 20 years later, I’m the Youth Director. I desire those profound cross-cultural experiences that shape and wreck us- but not at the price of a communities’ well-being. Some say it can’t be done at all, their Facebook rants say to take your thousands and give them to a local Church or community development organization. Changing the name from a “missions trip” to a “Service and Learning Trip” is not enough, but it indicated a start.

   I risk it, researching, interviewing short term mission agencies until I find a satisfactory model – it’s not perfect, but headed in the right direction. The agency is connected to a community who invited them. Within, everything is led by the indigenous leaders of the community; the local church leads the ministry for kids, they are linked with a local non-profit doing long term community development and are partnered inter-faith with Catholic nuns who run an orphanage for kids abandoned because of HIV. Our team is a hybrid of inner-city Latino boys and white suburban girls – the fruit of a purposeful blended youth ministry borne of deep relationship and commitment to the vision of mutual transformation at home. For 2 months we hard-wire our youth with our theme. We go to serve. We go to learn. This is not a vacation. God is already at work in Sumpongo. God is there. We go to serve. We go to learn.

   And we were blown away by the raw beauty of God discovered in the acts of serving others and listening and watching. We found the natural state of our soul and dared to share it with each other. We heard the tender whisper of God’s love; we saw the magic of the Gospel at work. Every night, tears. Daring to pray out loud. Daring to dream a bigger dream. Daring to live like God existed and that we were called.

   An Aboriginal woman of Australia said to some missionaries a time ago, “If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

   Truly, not until we discover that our liberation is bound up with another, are we truly freed to live out the wholeness of the Gospel.

Reflections from the Students

Cris:

   My 3 words to describe the trip?

  • Life Changing. Life changing because it changed my perspective on life when I saw all the kids smiling when I saw they had so little.
  • Fun. I got to spend time with people that I know and got to know others I didn’t know.  I made friends with one dude.  I want to go back
  • Heart Opening.  When I was at the orphanage, I was talking to a kid and he asked me about my mom, where she was. I said she was at home. He asked me where my dad was and I said, I don’t know him. The kid then said, well for now you can be my brother. And I thought wow, it really opened me up to realize they want and need attention, someone to be there with them and it made me proud that he considered me to be his brother.  

Katie

   I’m so happy that I went on this service and learning trip. At first I thought it would be kinda boring but it was the total opposite of that. The days were full of experiences and building new relationships. Working with kids all day I thought that I was going to get annoyed but, I loved every moment. These were just so happy to play tag and that’s all they wanted to do. It was so much fun and refreshing to dance and sing with theses kids. I saw a lot of big brothers and sisters carrying around their little siblings and the little ones really loved their siblings. These kids have so much responsibility and its just so amazing that these care for their brothers and sister with everything they have.  I love the sense of community there. Everyone knew and cared about each other.  

   During this trip I was able to open myself to these wonderful people in ways that I never thought I could or even would. I was able to talk about certain things that I have never talked about to anyone in years and to be able to trust again.  I do believe that God put every single person on this adventure for a reason.  I’m so glad that I was able to mission trip and make new friends and grow in others.

Hannah

   I saw God the most in the home visits. We had the opportunity to be welcomed in to a couple of the homes of the families who lived in the community. It was a very powerful experience and I could see God working right in front of my eyes. One women hadn't been to church in a couple months. During our visit she began to cry and realized that God was with her even though she hadn't been going to church. Our team going and visiting this women and her family restored some of her faith. God showed right in this small moment how he was using us as disciples for his glory. 

   During these visits I was pushed out of my comfort zone and I had to pray for a family and explain a verse at another women's home. God revealed to me that the words I need to say will come when they are needed. Also that what I have to say is important and should be heard. 

   These visits also showed a stark contrast between a standard house in America compared to one in Guatemala. In Guatemala most of the homes are the size of one room. The items in the house can be counted on your fingers. Even with this simple life, I remember one woman said that God had provided everything she needed. In America people are so caught up in material items and having the latest gadgets. I want to try and live a more simple life. To not be so focused on having more things because God will provide what is necessary. Or maybe since I have been blessed with more than is necessary I should give to those who do need more.

Edgar

   All throughout 2017 I was always depressed until the beginning of this year when I had a dream. It was like I was in the entrance of heaven and my goal was to go on top of heaven where God was and God pointed me towards a path and told me " just follow my Word and everything will be okay." and I had this feeling of just surrendering myself to the Lord like if I had no other option. When I woke up I started flipping through the Bible and noticed that what I was reading was like an instruction book to life. I started to talk to my brother in law (Hector) about what I thought about the Bible and God, and after that I wasn't as sad as before. 

   So, a couple weeks later he asked me if I was willing to come to the Guatemala mission trip but I really wasn't interested in going because I wasn't comfortable with worship. But then he mentioned how other people were going to share how they see God and that really got me curious - I wanted to know the difference of how I saw God and how others saw Him. He also mentioned how we would be building a house for someone. So, I ended up going to see other people's points of view and to help someone in need.

   There I saw and realized during worship that God will sometimes make you suffer so that someday you will turn and surrender to him and realize that, that's all you had to do, have faith in God and you will be blessed. It was just like the family in Guatemala, they had to sleep next to a wall with curtains to give them privacy for who knows how long but they had faith and they thanked God for the little things he gave them and with time he was able to bless them with the home they needed..

 

Communications