Local Outreach: How Action Leads to Transformation in Go! Mobile

goproject2

by Laura Forman

Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”  Matthew 28:18-20 (NLT)

My husband and I had been church shopping for months. I, a new Christian, and David, a bit deeper in his the faith, could not list the mandatory prerequisites. We told ourselves, “we’ll know it when we see it”.

We both came to Jesus later in life. The catalyst? A friend stepping out to share his beliefs, an accepted invitation to service and the Spirit moving us step by step through each. I know our friend Austin isn’t the reason I’m Christian- it was Holy Spirit working through him, reaching my husband first and then eventually grabbing hold of my heart. We are forever grateful.

Instinctively we knew we belonged, not only at Immanuel, but with friends that would help us share our faith in real and loving ways. It was an act of courage for Austin to reach out to David, and for David to me. We are simultaneously inspired, encouraged and supported in Go! Mobile (affectionately referred to as “the huddle”) .

I listen during our meetings to how God has worked similarly through our members- to touch a friend, neighbor, relative or even a complete stranger . Knowing that only those ready to hear will listen with an open heart, we pray for wisdom and for each other.

The action is both big- leading Micro Alpha, Celebrate Recovery or a neighborhood Bible study, and small- getting to know a next-door neighbor, praying with someone in need, walking beside a grieving parent.

We reach out as we are called. Starting with prayer, we move on to relationship (often involving meals shared) and eventually share the Gospel, following the beautiful nature of an Pray – Eat – Love lifestyle. There is no telling how long it will take or whom God will place in our paths. We don’t measure progress by how many come to attend church, but instead how well we follow the command to “go.”

Go! Mobile is a part of the larger Go! Project, focusing not only on our immediate neighbors, but everyone within our sphere of influence. It is about shifting from thinking to action — to becoming “doers of the Word”. Fear is addressed, as are busy schedules and not knowing where to start.

In a dark and hurting world, we have the opportunity to shine the light of Jesus as a beacon to others.

My husband shared my distress during a difficult time in our lives a few years ago. Little did I know, he had been praying with Austin that I would come to know Jesus. Unlike me, David had a certain peace about him. At a particularly low point, one line of scripture spoken at the same moment a cross came into view changed my life forever.

You may never know the answer of your prayers, relationships or love for others. A few words or a simple gesture lend love to those who are searching for it. Because I was shown the path from darkness to light, from death to life … because I have been re-born in Christ, I commit to “go” and help others do the same.

How are you going? Will you join us?

Go! Mobile meets on the first Sunday of the month during service, email David Forman at dforman7x70@hotmail.com for information. Visit the Go! Project website at www.thegoproject.org to watch training videos and to learn more about the Go! Project and Go! Mobile.

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

Small Groups: Connecting Us to Each Other and to God

by Laura Forman

For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them. Matthew 18:20

Nothing nourishes the soul as much as time with God. We are spiritually fed through quiet moments in God’s word, prayer and meditation, Sunday morning services, singing in worship and reaching out with the love of Christ to a hurting world.

For many of us, the journey stops here. While we realize Christian community is important, intentional meeting often ends up overlooked because life is so full already. However, something special occurs when a small group of  Christian brothers and sisters gather. Authenticity happens, accountability, encouragement, connection, guidance and indeed…God.

With the next Small Group Connection coming up February 1, Amy Hodson shares how the Immanuel small group experience has enriched her life as well as her husband Graeme’s life.

IC: Did you have any reservations about joining a small group?

Amy: We did not because we had been involved in small groups at two prior churches before we moved to Gurnee last January.  We find real value in building Godly relationships and community through small group ministry, and being new to Immanuel in May, it was a wonderful way to connect within the church body.

IC: How has being in a small group impacted your faith?

Amy: Significantly.  God has used small groups to reach us in very particular ways.  In our first experience in Ohio, the small group study was generally linked to the sermon series and served to reinforce and delve deeper into the scripture and discuss application of God’s Word to our lives in a personal way.  Our Michigan small group began meeting shortly after I was diagnosed with cancer in 2008.  God equipped that group with a ready sense of fellowship – we clicked – and brought together other couples who had been through cancer or serious illness before and simply surrounded us with love, encouragement, honesty and Godly fellowship.  We spent one series working through Mark Gungor’s Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage, and it was fantastic to laugh together and discuss as friends how God wanted to grow our marriages.

Our Immanuel Small Group is coming together in a similar way.  As we have shared our stories over the past few months, we have drawn connections and grown together in fellowship.  I really value the time we spend together in prayer as well as the diversity of experience gathered in one room.  Our group ranges in age from early 40s to late 50s, and the breadth of experience gives the group a great deal of spiritual depth.

IC: Have you seen evidence of God working through your particular group? How?

Amy: Yes, in a few key ways.  First, as members share their “stories” we see evidence of God’s faithfulness to his children demonstrated in the paths of individual lives.  Second, we have seen God answer many prayers we have raised together.  Finally, for Graeme and I, God has answered the prayer we’ve prayed for community and fellowship as we continue to transition to a new home, church and community.

IC: What about your group do you look forward to?

Amy: Well, the short answer is more of Rose and Mark Boothe’s (group leaders) wonderful cooking and hospitality!  Mark rocks those chocolate chip cookies!  On a more serious note, though, we are looking forward to deepening the friendships we’ve begun to build and to growing together in faith.  As we move into the “40 days in the Word” series, we are looking forward to studying scripture as a couple (something we miss the mark on!) and as a group.  Finally, we also look forward to the laughter—as a group we laugh a lot and that is such a blessing!

IC: What would you say to others thinking of joining a small group?

Amy: DO IT!  God will bless the time you spend together!

To read more about the February 1st Small Group Connection or the upcoming series 40 Days in the Word, click here.

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

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 www.lauralisaforman.com.

World Outreach: Christmas Around the World

by Laura Forman

December is a season of preparation, of both hearts and homes.  Advent stems from the Latin adventus, or coming. We wait expectantly for the most special of days. Beyond the glittering tree, gifts from Santa and even Holiday dinner, Christmas is a celebration of the moment the Word, God’s Word, blessed us in person.

So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. John 1:14 (NLT)

Christmas is particularly meaningful to our missionaries living half a world away and the new (and not yet) Christians they minister to. Choosing to spend the Holiday with brothers and sisters most in need, these special families reach out to share the love of Jesus in ways that are both selfless and inspiring.

In Jos, Nigeria, preparation for the “biggest Christian celebration” begins at least two months in advance. The Galadima family started their planning in October by joining in the purchase of a cow to be shared at Christmas.

The gift of food is an important part of the Holiday; the meat will be shared with parents, poor family members and orphans in their extended family. Rice will be gifted to widows the family is acquainted with and yet more food is to be distributed to international students remaining on a nearby campus for Christmas.

Cooking begins several days before the Holiday with Rose preparing pastries with the help of the girls living with them. The family attends church both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, culminating with fellowship and the sharing of a special meal.

“Children visit from one house to another all day long. They expect to eat something and get a gift of money. It’s like trick-or-treating.” This tradition continues throughout the day after Christmas, when Rose and Bulus visit their respective mothers, having spent the Holiday entertaining.

In Central Mexico, Chris and Kathy Gouzoules welcome many into their home, “Christian and non-Christian, [who] for a variety of reasons will not be spending Christmas with their families. Some of [them] have been ‘expelled’ from their families due to their faith in Jesus, others due to family feuds, and yet others due to living away from their families.”

The large and late meal served on Christmas Eve, and into the wee hours of the morning, is the focus of the Holiday. Traditional fare for this area is “pozole, turkey, ham, shrimp soup, hot fruit punch and plenty of alcohol.” The Gouzoules serve a cidra, or non-alcoholic cider in place of the latter. Small gifts are shared with the guests, often poor and/or single mothers, and “all go home with a plate of homemade Christmas cookies, candies and sweet breads” (lovingly baked by Chris himself).

Many years Chris, Kathy and their children participate in outreach, such as serving a meal for families of patients at a local hospital or delivering food and warm clothing to poor areas of their city of Tenancingo. According to Chris, “these outreaches are usually accompanied by a brief message on the great gift of God’s love in the form of Jesus. The kids have LOVED this part of Christmas and [it] always makes them appreciate a little more the many blessings we have.”

To read about these and other missionary families Immanuel partners with, visit http://www.immanuelhome.org/world.php

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 www.lauralisaforman.com.

Accelerate: Gratitude, Generosity and God’s Grace

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever you would call me

-Oceans by Hillsong United

by Laura Forman

Thanks and giving are two words that have merged in a new and wonderful way for me this year. They are clearly directions to which we are called as Christians. Gratitude and generosity- is it possible to experience one without the other? I believe the answer is no.

This is my family’s first year at Immanuel, our new church home. Recently, we have been blessed with the opportunity to grow our faith in two important ways: by cultivating gratitude in the midst of difficulty and giving financially despite uncertainty.

It was an act of clever planning that the Accelerate offering, with a record-setting goal, was scheduled the same day as the Thanksgiving Stories service and our annual Worship Night. November 24 was a day to “worship, honor and thank” God for His faithfulness, a time to give back.

That morning, I was one of the brave, sharing my story of personal challenge this year and how God held my family through it all. I expressed gratitude for God’s plan at work in our lives, for Immanuel, for Pastor Joe. Like you, I shed tears at the hearts of our church family poured out in thanksgiving.

To joyful lyrics and impromptu dancing, my husband placed a carefully written check into the basket, one with its own story.

Hebrews1315Earlier this month, while praying about our contribution to Accelerate, we followed through on a decision to financially support a Kenyan pastor planning a mission in his home country. David sent the amount, which in his words “stung a bit”.

In spite of David’s job insecurity, and in the midst of my own career change, we opened our hands to give …  and soon after, received. The very next day we were told of an unexpected utility credit. The amount? The exact sum given to Pastor Davis Juma of Kenya.

We applied the surprise windfall toward our Accelerate offering. God reminded us in a clear way that we are built for generosity, that we can trust Him because His ways are greater. The sting didn’t last.

Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. Colossians 2:7 (NLT)

After witnessing God’s grace at work in Immanuel and beyond, having opened my hands a bit wider that morning, it was time to praise and worship. An evening of music, prayer and silent moments with God culminated a day of breakthrough.

At that moment, with my hands raised, singing, I glimpsed the connection between thanks and giving – it’s the flow of love from and to God. I’m grateful to return a small portion of what I’ve received, in faith.

We are so thankful for the excitement surrounding the special Accelerate offering taken this past Sunday! That said, we’ve got a lot to celebrate, so we’ll be announcing the total in person this Sunday. You won’t want to miss it! See you Sunday morning at 9 or 10:45 a.m.! Thank you for your generosity and for following the Lord where He leads!

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 www.lauralisaforman.com.