The Monday After: The Story Continues {Andrew}

You know that Sunday feeling, right?

We leave the church building inspired and filled with Truth and encouragement on Sundays … and somewhere along the course of the week, pieces of the message tend to fade and we often lose that Sunday feeling.

The Monday After {the Sunday Sermon} carries the Sunday message into Monday mornings by sharing how what we’ve heard on Sunday morning is making a difference in our Mondays, our weeks, our lives. Because of your generosity to Accelerate, we are able to share these stories! Thank you!

The Monday After Sunday, December 30, 2013: The Story Continues — Listen.

by Andrew Kelley

For my until life, the eraser has been just as important as the point with which I write.
That all changed yesterday morning. I’ve known for awhile that God uses our pasts to reach out to people with similar pasts; yesterday Pastor Josh brought a new perspective into view for me, which was totally new and, dare I say, life altering.
I’ve done things and have had things done to me that I am ashamed of, but I know I’ve been forgiven and washed white as snow. Plus, God has given me that undeniable peace that said I allowed these things to happen in your past so you can help others that have been through similar things. It was before that life-altering moment where God transformed me that I was stuck on repeat. Before He showed me my next chapter I had used all my erasers to their max.  I didn’t want others to see my mistakes. I didn’t want to see my own past mistakes. Now It makes so much sense to not erase those mistakes.
Every time I read about them or I hear a pastor talk about them, the Israelites remind me of all the times God brought them through and set them free and supplied their every need; but shortly after each delivery, it seemed they forgot God and what He did for them. It’s like they had short-term memory loss. God continued to remind them of the promise He made with Moses and them. God also continued to remind them of their past.
Peter, as well, really messed up, but God still used him, mistakes and all. Remember — Peter was the one that denied Christ, and shortly after his reception with Jesus, there he is preaching about Christ. Peter remembered what Jesus told him he would do — deny Christ — and he wept.
I want my new year to be sort of like my new life in Christ. In my new life in Christ I did not start over; rather I started my next chapter. So like what Pastor Josh said, “A new year isn’t about starting over. It’s about starting what’s next,” I want to start what God has for me in 2014.
Sure it’s not all within arms reach, but if I step back, remember where I came from and how I got here, I will rest in the fact that God is with me now just like He was and forever will be.

Andrew and Dawn

Andrew Kelley is husband to Dawn and father to four wonderful children; he and his family currently call Immanuel and Zion home. 

Local Outreach: Christmas with the Sailors

So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples. John 13:34-35 (NLT)

Though the name sounds self-explanatory — Christmas with the Sailors — the impact of this important outreach is not quite as obvious. Michelle Bychowski, one of the event’s organizers, shares the ins and outs of this opportunity to love our military service people.

IC: How is Christmas with the Sailors serving a need?

Michelle: The sailors, this year we’ve invited a battalion of 80, are all recruits in basic training boot camp. They have been isolated for weeks and are only allowed out because of the Christmas holiday. They have been isolated from all civilization for weeks: no television, news, radio, and no contact with family. Many of these recruits are very young (the average age is 18) and have never been away from home for Christmas before.

IC: What is some of the feedback you’ve gotten from the sailors?

Michelle: Usually we receive several letters expressing their thankfulness for our willingness to spend Christmas with them and make them feel at home. Some have said they were not sure what to expect when they discovered they were coming to “a church” but were pleasantly surprised and enjoyed the entire day.

MerryNavyWe send Christmas letters home for their families with a group photo and individual photo. This generally results in parents writing us back expressing their thanks for spending the day with their child. They usually let us know it made them feel better knowing they were not alone and they were able to talk to them or see their child via Skype. I love that this extends past us serving just the individual, it serves their families as well.

IC: What is your favorite part of the day?

Michelle: My favorite part is meeting these young men and women and watching the interaction with everyone. There have been different stories each year that are so memorable. For example, one year a young man walked around rubbing his face with Kleenex saying, ” you don’t know what we wipe with in the barracks!” Another time, a young girl cried when she saw someone’s baby and thought the baby looked a lot like hers.

I love seeing their excitement when they get to talk to their parents or their loved ones throughout the day. It is enjoyable watching them play games and just relaxing and enjoying food all day.

IC: What are your current volunteer needs?

Michelle: We could still use a few turkeys and more stuffing. We are in need of more appetizers and side dishes. I usually recommend that if you are making something special for your family, double the recipe and bring the rest over. I have often heard a sailor say, ” my mother makes this every year!” and it may be something different like enchiladas or Puerto Rican rice.

IC: How has this changed Christmas for your family?

Michelle: For our family it all began hoping our children would not be so wrapped up in the opening of presents and realize that it is better to give than to receive. We have seen that play out many times. One Christmas, their Christmas presents were still under the tree several days later and I had to tell them to open them. For days they will talk about stories they shared or fun things they experienced. They look forward to going to gurnee mills after graduation to see if we can find any of our guests. They also know they will not be getting many presents anymore the focus is on Christs birth and then serving others. They were given the option of going on vacation when we switched churches and unanimously all the children expressed they wanted to have Christmas with the sailors. That same weekend Immanuel announced “ICU” and my husband and I looked at each other with the understanding that Christmas was back on! The day is long lived in our hearts and minds; my children are forming memories and I am pretty sure it will be passed on to their families to not be so self focused at Christmas.

To volunteer for specific tasks, stop at the Info Circle this Sunday or call the church office for more information.

100_1824Laura Forman is married to David and they live in Gurnee with their five children. She is a fitness instructor, freelance writer and can be found at church or

The Monday After: Story: An Unbelievable Story {Dawn}

You know that Sunday feeling, right?

We leave the church building inspired and filled with Truth and encouragement on Sundays … and somewhere along the course of the week, pieces of the message tend to fade and we often lose that Sunday feeling.

The Monday After {the Sunday Sermon} carries the Sunday message into Monday mornings by sharing how what we’ve heard on Sunday morning is making a difference in our Mondays, our weeks, our lives. Because of your generosity to Accelerate, we are able to share these stories! Thank you!

The Monday After Sunday, December 15, 2013: Story: An Unbelievable Story

By Dawn Kelley

I remember it like it was yesterday. I was sitting in my parent’s room talking to my mom when my dad pulled up to the house in a Chrysler 300 Convertible. Now, my dad bought cars often and he always had more than one at a time, so my first thought was, “that’s cute.” When he asked me to come and drive it around the block I was ecstatic! When we returned to the house He said “Do you like it?” My response was that of any teenage girl who had just driven a convertible: “YES!” The very next day my dad took me to the dealership, and he purchased my 18th birthday present. It was the best gift I could have asked for, and the thing is, I didn’t ask for it. My father just gave it to me.

I thought of what went on in my mind when that gift was given. I was excited, blown away — I felt special. What had Mary gone through when God gifted her with the Savior of the world as her son? I know when my dad gave me my gift it was hard to believe that he trusted me enough to purchase me a vehicle. God trusted Mary, a simple, young girl, with the gift of a life time, a truly eternal gift. A gift so amazing it’s unbelievable.

Isn’t it hard to accept an unbelievable story? God softens our hearts to accept His story, and then He gently eases His way into ours. He shows us just how much we mean to Him throughout His story. His story sometimes seems so unbelievable; but to me the most unbelievable part of His story is that I am a part of it. As Pastor Joe spoke of the gifts that God gave to Mary I realized that He gave me some of the most amazing gifts — the most amazing being the baby that He entrusted Mary with. When I think of that, I am reminded of the good gifts God gives; they are even more than what my father gave me.

This Christmas, I am once again reminded of the gift of Jesus. Something I can celebrate 365 days of the year. I will remember that Christ was love and that He still is love — from the moment he was born into this world until the moment he died on the cross and forever more.

Dawn Kelley is the wife of Andrew and the homeschooling mother of four, Jaden, Niya, Makayla and Aiden. She loves to read and write in her spare time, and she currently uses a personal blog to share her adventures in motherhood and womanhood.


ICYouth: The God of Second Chances {Gracie}

Thank you for your generosity to our one-fund, Accelerate. Because of your geneorsity, we are able to share stories of how God is changing lives! Every Friday, one of our student bloggers shares how God is working in his or her life. Leave some encouragement by commenting?

by Gracie Adamek

Last Sunday was a big night for iMPACT. There was an awesome message (as always), student-led worship and absolutely the most exciting thing of all — eight students accepted Jesus Christ as their savior!

Can I get a “praise God”?! I mean, holy cow! That makes me SO excited! Why? That is eight new brothers and sisters in Christ who get to spend eternity in Paradise with us! Also, it tells me that we’re doing something right at Immanuel Church. It reminds me of the story in Acts when God was pleased with the Church and the amount of people in the Church multiplied like crazy.

“They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.” Acts 2:46-47

And, while eight students might not seem like a lot in the grand scheme of things, anyone giving up themselves to follow Christ is a victory and certainly something to be celebrated. But, as any Christian knows, being a Christian is not always the rainbows and flowers and sunshine that we often like to pretend it is.

It’s hard! It’s a lot of sacrifices and awkward conversations. People you thought were friends won’t always be there for you. Families can still fall apart. Sometimes, it’s going to rain. Scratch that, sometimes it’s going to storm so badly you don’t feel like you’ll make it out!

But the wonderful thing is that with God, we know we’ll make it out! For new Christians, however, it’s things like storms and sacrifices that could seriously make or break their relationship with Christ. Actually, I suppose that could be the same for anyone, new Christian or not.

Won’t you join me in prayer for these eight individuals who are taking a step of faith?! Let’s lift them up daily and pray for piles of blessings! Join me in thanking The Lord that He is a God of second chances. A God who loves even after being overlooked a million times. A God who will never give up. A God who is in control. He is sovereign.

And I am so thankful.

Gracie Adamek is a senior at Lakes Community High School. She enjoys singing, acting and spending time with friends! Gracie is so grateful for this opportunity and hopes to glorify God 100 percent through this!