Local Outreach: Micro Alpha Reaching Teens in Recovery

by Laura Forman

There is no cure for addiction. You will never hear the words, “I used to be an addict.” If you do the person is mistaken. There is only treatment, the most successful of which involves the 12 steps of recovery.

In the process of working the steps, the addict must identify and learn to rely upon a “higher power”, whom some choose to call God. Many who struggle with chemical dependence also struggle with the concept of God, who He is, how He works in our lives, and what it means to surrender to His will.

Teens in an outpatient substance abuse program were invited to attend Micro Alpha, hosted by my husband, David, and me earlier this year. Our goal was to reach out to these vulnerable youth and help them define God in a non-threatening, non-judgmental environment.

Alpha is an invaluable tool for Christians to share Jesus’ love and message to a hurting world. In our home on Friday nights after their rehabilitation group, youth ranging in age from 15 to 20, male and female, gang member to star high school athlete met to talk about Jesus.

We shared a meal and heard stories of how addiction surfaced in these young lives: pain pills after surgery, skipping school to get high with friends, a drug dealer met on the school bus. David and I talked about the hope and healing Jesus gives, the unconditional forgiveness and love, the promise to be our strength.

The Youth Alpha video was a hit; neither of us expected it to be so well received. Only 20 minutes long, one teen’s favorite was the cartoon snippet. We paused to answer the built-in questions, one of the first was, “If you had one day left to live, how would you spend it?”The initial thoughts focused on using drugs, then upon realizing the unconsciousness that would result, minds changed to spending time with family, traveling and hanging out at the beach and with famous people.

There was plenty of laughter to accompany the serious discussions. Relationships were forged. No response was stupid or out of line. We invited the truth to be told.

One night a picture of a swimming pool came onto the screen. People were shown lounging near the pool, dipping their toes in, wading or swimming full force. They were asked to pick out the figure that best represented their readiness for a relationship with God.

Some of the kids were closer to the pool than they were prior to recovery and some identified with tentative swimming, slowly renewing their trust in God. Yet others were seated at a table, looking on curiously.

Alpha is a method of seed planting. Through this Friday night tradition, we hope to have worked where God is already taking hold.

One 12-step slogan likens addiction to a “God-sized hole.” The only thing in this world that will fill the inner hole we try so desperately to fill with quick fixes is reliance on God.

Jesus told us,

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

God has put it on our hearts to reach out to those with a gap in their souls where God is waiting to rush in. Nothing is more fulfilling.

Local Outreach: Stories of Being the Light

by Laura Forman

The words aggressive and Christian should perhaps never be paired. Maybe you’ve known someone that fits the description; if not, you’re probably not interested in meeting such a person. That said, when Immanuel’s Go! Group leader David Forman was asked to describe its purpose, he responded that it is to help the church be more “aggressive” in sharing God’s love.

Jesus said:

You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on a stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.  Matthew 5:14-16 (NIV)

It takes intent and initiative to share our faith, to shine our light. In these ways, we are “aggressive” by being fired up to love one another as Jesus intended, listening to and answering God’s call on our lives, praying for each other and nurturing our own relationship with God in order to mentor others.

Each member of Go! is committed to missional living, seeing our everyday lives as our mission field. Here is how some of us are doing just that:

Deborah Jensen prays for her neighbors as she walks past their homes. A former Micro Alpha host, she is currently on the summer Alpha Team. Deb’s outreach includes inviting neighbors, friends and her daughter’s friends to attend Alpha. She is looking forward to hosting an upcoming summer neighborhood block party, complete with a campfire, s’mores and a game of tag for the kids.

Also starting right where she lives, Beth Mccullough has led three neighborhood women’s Bible studies in her home since she felt God’s call to do so a year and a half ago.

Beth explained, “I have found that a neighborhood study seems to reach a group of women who are perhaps intimidated to enter a church building for a study, or who are short on time and appreciate a casual meeting right in the ‘hood that they can walk to. The women that have been coming are quite diverse in their spiritual backgrounds, and several do not have a home church. Two of the women who joined last time had never opened a Bible before- which was SO exciting to me!”

Lisa Stewart is working with Bridge House, a substance abuse treatment center.

In Lisa’s words, to share “how the programs that we offer at Immanuel have helped me to develop a personal working relationship with Jesus Christ has kept me clean and saved not only my soul but my life as well.”

As an employee of A Safe Place, a domestic violence shelter, Cindy Johnson is working on approval to lead Micro Alpha at the facility. Those in need of abuse services would be invited on a voluntary basis.

David and I currently host Micro Alpha in our home for a group of teens in substance abuse recovery. We felt the call to reach out to this vulnerable population because many drop out of twelve step programs due to confusion over the definition of “higher power.” In our fifth week, we continue to be amazed by their openness and excitement for the program.

Beth sums up our sentiments well, “The Go! Group at Immanuel has been a tremendous source of encouragement and support; I always leave the group meetings feeling refreshed and re-energized. It is wonderful to hear how God is working through the other group members’ lives, and to see glimpses of Him on the move in Lake County.”

Hear more stories of Go! members and get support or ideas for your outreach at our next meeting, the first Sunday of the month at 10:45 in room B113.

100_1824 Laura Forman is a follower of Christ and Immanuel Church member. She is  married to David and they live in Gurnee  with their five children. Working as  both a personal trainer and a freelance writer, she can be found at church  or www.lauralisaforman.com.

Journey to the Cross: “A moving, quiet and profound experience”

by Laura Forman

We all know the signs of Easter: candy-filled egg hunts, pictures with the Easter bunny, baskets, a special family dinner. Preparation includes not only the physical, planning all of the above, but also mental and spiritual readiness for the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection.

As Christians, we are witness to a journey of the greatest magnitude, God’s love letter to us, through his only Son. The story of the greatest struggle and triumph the world has ever known is about to be retold.

Take yourself back 2,000 years. What if you were part of the crowd watching Jesus with his crown of thorns, carrying his cross, stumbling through the streets of Jerusalem? What emotions would you have when this innocent man, whom you believed equally God, was nailed to the cross and ridiculed? What would your reaction be to his empty stone tomb three days after you saw Him die?

This Holy Week, between Palm Sunday and Easter, defines Christianity. Through Jesus, the veil between the spiritual and material worlds was torn, making it possible to bring God’s love to Earth.

“Jesus’s resurrection is the beginning of God’s new project not to snatch people away from earth to heaven but to colonize earth with the life of heaven.” – N. T. Wright

Jesus’ life and fate were predicted in the Old Testament and chronicled in the New. Light came into a broken world and showed us what is Holy. We are called to now be His light. Let this season transform you in a new way through an experience of Jesus’ death and resurrection story.

In the words of Eugene H. Peterson, “It is not easy to convey a sense of wonder, let alone resurrection wonder, to another. It’s the very nature of wonder to catch us off guard, to circumvent expectations and assumptions. Wonder can’t be packaged, and it can’t be worked up. It requires some sense of being there and some sense of engagement.”

This year, go beyond reading or hearing the Easter story by entering into it.

Journey to the Cross will be held at Immanuel Church April 15-19. By literally stepping into the pages of the story, this self-lead exhibit consists of 12 interactive stations that chronicle the Resurrection Story, God’s story.

Designed for all ages, whether or not you attend Immanuel (or any church), it is promised to create a sense of wonder. There are activities geared toward adults and children at each station. Allow approximately one hour for viewing and contemplation.

A station at last year's Journey to the Cross.
A station at last year’s Journey to the Cross.

 

For leader Marion Medina and approximately twenty volunteers, Journey has been “a growing labor of love” in its fourth year, which continues to improve. She describes it as a “moving, quiet and profound experience.”

A progression toward redemption and personal surrender is this year’s focus. Near the end, you are invited to continue your own journey. At the very least, Marion suggests, the experience will evoke questions. And at the most? Who knows?

You’re officially invited.

Location: Immanuel Church. April 15-19.

Hours:

Tuesday – Thursday 10 am – 3 pm and 6:30 – 8:30 pm,

Friday 10 am – 6:30 pm,

Saturday 10 am – 3 pm.

Please note: volunteers are still needed; if you are willing to help set up on Sunday April 13 or tear down on Saturday April 19, please contact Marion at marionm@immanuelhome.org.

 

Laura Forman is a follower of Christ and Immanuel Church member. She is married to David and they live in Gurnee  with their five children. Working as both a personal trainer and a freelance writer, she can be found at church or www.lauralisaforman.com.

 

 

 

Local Outreach: ICU Project, Safe Families

Thank you so much for your generosity to Accelerate, our one-fund generosity initiative! Because of God’s goodness and His people’s generosity, we are able to share stories of how He is at work at Immanuel, in our community and around the world.

by Jaci Scheidemantle, Immanuel attendee

I was born and raised in Indonesia, a Muslim country on the equator halfway across the world from Gurnee. I’m not really American or Indonesian; I’m a third-culture kid who assimilated some of both cultures to make an “other,” a third culture. This means I speak English and look American, but I often still think and feel Asian. And that I’d still pick chicken sate over pizza and fried bananas over potato chips any day of the week.

As a missionary kid, I had the privilege of helping my parents plant a church. I witnessed my dad speaking the words “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” for the first time to the Gerai people. And I saw the joy of new believers reading scripture translated into their mother tongue. I learned to watch carefully for cultural cues, sit straight legged in church on the floor, wrap diaper-less babies in sarongs, winnow rice and cut grass with a machete (although, admittedly, not very well).

Since becoming a mom, I have felt a profound tension between wanting my daughter to experience the same joy I had in interacting with another culture, while still dealing with the cost of that lifestyle, which, for me, was feeling abandoned when sent to boarding school at age seven. For eleven years, I spent three months at school followed by two or three months at home, and this constant change, always leaving and being left, marked me deeply.

DoforoneThis is one reason my husband and I are getting involved with Safe Families. Safe Families for Children is coordinating with churches in the Gurnee area to offer a temporary safe haven for children whose parents are in crisis situations. Their goal is to minimize the risk of abuse and neglect to the children, while giving time for the parents to get the tools they need to be more successful so that ultimately the family can stay in tact.

We want to open our home to these kids, and in the process, we hope to teach our daughter how to love the “other” and to experience the challenges and joys of difference. God has showered us with grace and now invites us to love the ”other” too. And I trust God will help me love enough. I know it won’t be perfectly, but sometimes just being available is enough.

You don’t have to have a big house or extra income to be a part of this movement. We need prayer warriors, meals and hand-me-downs, too, as we launch the Immanuel Church Unleashed Safe Families project!

Find out how you can be part of this growing network of support for families in crisis by joining us on April 7 from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. at Immanuel Church as we make fleece blankets for the Safe Family kids. Bring the whole family! We’ll have snacks and a short presentation.

Please RSVP at scheids1@gmail.com or 847-809-9400.

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.