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.

Accelerate: What $3K Can do for a Girl Who Has Been S*x Trafficked

On Sunday, November 24, Immanuel will be taking a special offering with the hope that $75,000 will be given. This amount has never been given on one Sunday during Immanuel’s history.  None of the money collected that week will go toward operating expenses; all will go toward mortgage reduction, global ministry (India anti-human trafficking) and local ministry (micro Alpha).

Eighty percent of the money collected will go toward reducing our mortgage so as to more quickly free up ministry money. Read more about that here. Ten percent of the money given will go toward global ministry — specifically toward anti-human trafficking initiatives in India through our partnership with Bright Hope. Read more about our involvement with Anti-Human Trafficking below. 

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Beyond Numbers: A Real Face of Human Trafficking

Heena had been s*xually trafficked since age seven. She learned that if she helped to traffic girls, she could keep some money for herself. Last January, while the anti-human trafficking team was eating lunch, they witnessed a girl being beaten by a group of boys. They called the police, and she was given the option to go to the safe house. She chose not to and went back out on the streets.

One month later, our team rescued Heena for the second time. She again chose not to go to the safe house because life in s*x trafficking was what she knew. A short time later, our team saw Heena in the news. Her body was lying in the road, beaten and bruised. The police called our team a third time to come get her. She was on heavy drugs. She was taken to the safe house and within three days, she jumped off the second story balcony and ran away.

Jan 2013 Rescued Girls PUBLICIn July, the police called a fourth time, and our team went to rescue Heena … again. They explained to her that she could leave if she wanted to, but this time, she has chosen to stay.

She is 15 years old and has been in the program for three months. She is amazed that people cared for her so much that they rescued her four times and love her in spite of her past. She cannot believe that she is wanted and cries often. But Heena is beginning to dream about what she wants to do with her life. She wants to start a safe house for girls.

Our Partnership with Bright Hope:

Human trafficking, or the sale of humans, is the fastest growing business in the world, grossing $32 billion dollars a year. India ranks fourth in the list of countries with the most trafficking. In two large cities in northern India, this is what has happened over the last year:

  • Churches have united to make a dent in sex trafficking
  • Two safe souses have been established with teams that include house parents, counselors, investigators, security guards and teachers
  • The anti-human trafficking teams have worked closely with local police and government officials
  • Thirty-seven young girls have been rescued
  • Twenty-two are in the healing and restoration programs of the safe house
  • Five girls have come to know Christ!
  • It has been said that until we act in Northern India to stop s*x trafficking, we will not be able to make a dent in it anywhere else in the world

God is ALIVE and active! He pursues and restores. He heals and upholds the broken hearted. Immanuel has played a part in this effort, and we would like to continue!  God is reaching into the darkest places and using His followers to bring Hope to the hopeless. Pray without ceasing for the anti-human trafficking teams and for the girls in India.

Here’s where the special Accelerate offering comes in: it takes $3,000 to rescue a girl and care for her for one year.  If $75,000 is given during the special offering, we could provide care for two rescued girls for an entire year and there would be a little money left to help sponsor the care and rescue of another girl. 

Three lives.

Three lives could be rescued and cared for as a result of what God does through our generosity! Together we can partner with Him to make a difference.

Accelerate: Moving into Year Two

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by John Worth, director of Accelerate

Dear Immanuel family,

The month of November is an exciting month in the life of Immanuel.  There are several things I would like to make sure you are aware of as we begin this month.

To begin, we are reaching the end of the first year of our two year Accelerate generosity initiative.  Many of you made a commitment of “Accelerated” giving to Immanuel back in November of 2012, and we are grateful for your commitment and faithful giving over the past year.

As we begin our second year of Accelerate we would like to invite those who haven’t made a commitment as well as those who did last year to fill out a new commitment card for planned giving during December 2013 – November 2014. The commitment card is simply a way to help us to plan for the additional fund’s use during the second half of Accelerate.  We will not call and bug you about the amount nor will we as an Accelerate team know who has committed how much other than on an anonymous basis.

We hope you will take the time over the next several weeks, as a family or by yourself, to listen and discern what God is asking for you to do in terms of generosity toward Immanuel. You can place your completed commitment cards in the offering basket, or at the table in the foyer through the first week of December.  Or if you prefer you can also follow the link below or the IR code to fill out your commitment card online.

Secondly, I am pleased to report that during our first year of Accelerate we so far have exceeded our budgeted giving by $17,500, which has been distributed between mortgage reduction, locally into the Alpha ministry and globally to a special project in the Philippines. We are very thankful to all of the people of Immanuel for making this possible.

Finally, the biggest thing to come in November was announced last week by elder Ben Ondo, our special Accelerate offering on November 24.

Immanuel’s leadership team is taking a step of faith and designating the entire offering we receive on that Sunday toward our special Accelerate initiatives. None of the money collected that week will go toward operating expenses (ie. staff, utilities, programming); all will go toward mortgage reduction, local ministry (micro Alpha) and global ministry (India anti-human trafficking).

Our goal on November 24 is to raise $75,000, an amount that has never been given on one Sunday in Immanuel’s history.  You won’t want to miss this unique opportunity to make an enormous impact on the world for Christ through our combined generosity.

Provided we raise $75,000, we would be making a payment of $60,000 toward our mortgage. To put this extra payment toward the mortgage in perspective, our current loan balance is approximately $2.7 million. Our loan will need to be either fully paid off or refinanced by April of 2018.  A $60,000 principle payment would mean if we were to refinance to a 30-year loan at 5 percent interest we could have the loan paid off 20 months sooner and save $56,000 in interest!
That’s close to two years of $12,800 additional dollars per month that could be used toward reaching our community and our world for Christ!

At Immanuel we believe that God is calling all believers to be involved in His work, both with our time as well as talent and treasure in order to help us grow as His disciples. Thank you for your continued generous support as we prepare at the end of November to celebrate all God has done for us and say thank you as we give back to Him.

Please feel free to reach out to me, any member of our elder board or staff with questions you may have regarding Accelerate at Immanuel.

John Worth
John.worth@hollister.com

The Monday After: Fully Devoted: Generosity, part two {Anita}

You know that Sunday feeling, right?

We leave church 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, September 30, 2013: Fully Devoted: Serving Others, part one

By Anita Everly

My Aunt Mabel, 94, is a never married farmer’s daughter who has lived all her life on a very low income.

In spite of that, every year for Christmas she gave her many grand nieces and nephews a one dollar bill.  Each visit to her home included freshly baked cookies out of a round tin, prepared in advance of our arrival, and time talking with us.  To this day she refuses to accept postage stamps we send her to write us back, knowing He provides.  Her simple ways of giving have ultimately been grand and glorious, going beyond the resources of a bank balance.

The Macedonians, too, were audacious givers:  “Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.” (2 Corinthians 8:2).  That is so contrary to our culture—severe trials and extreme poverty produced overflowing joy and rich generosity.

Aunt Mabel’s poverty has always “welled up in joyful generosity.”  She is a woman of deep faith and dependence on Him and she has seen His provision throughout her near century of living.  She knows the truth of 2 Corinthians 9:11:  “You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.”

Surely you have an Aunt Mabel in your life, too.  And probably the rich aunt who collects, hoards, begs and stomps her foot demanding more and more, too.  We all do.  But who do you more resemble?

It’s hard for most of us to put aside our idolatry of money, whether it’s fear of not enough or pride in keeping what we have attained.

Pastor Joe stepped right on my toes when he said, “We are inconsistent if we say we can’t commit to God and yet we are committed to our house, car, and Visa.”  And, let’s break it down to truth, a commitment to Amazon, Starbucks, Marshall’s, Bass Pro, restaurants and the like.  It’s all so selfish.

abundantgivingliving

So, what do we do?  We give.

I was preparing this, my husband and I remembered long ago when we had “fun money” in our budget.  We laughed at where that budget line went, but then I started thinking how much more fun it would be to reinstate that in a very intentional way.  Not for ourselves but for others.  Money to give away!  That’s fun!

Maybe you already generously give money away, but has it become too routine and impersonal?  Just writing a check or auto draft?

Maybe you’re barely making ends meet and that’s all you can do.

Either way, praying and asking God what he wants you to do with your resources will make clear the opportunities to give with joy and generosity in spite of your circumstances.  His Word promises it.

Practically speaking, maybe that means actually taking out some cash to pray over for the purpose of giving it away as God directs this week.  Maybe it’s skipping an indulgence for self to give away to another just for the practice of giving.  I don’t know what it will look like, but I’m confident He will lead and provide.

Sometimes it’s easy to give what’s expected, but to give abundantly is another story.

I’m going to be working to trade in my selfish ways to instead “excel in the grace of giving.”  (2 Corinthians 8:7)

Anita Everly is the wife of David and mom to their three sons.  She can be found watching the lives of her men unfold, creating a home, and encouraging other women in life and motherhood.  She is striving to live life on purpose because she is crazy in love with the One who is crazy in love with her.

 

ICYouth: The Freedom Generosity Affords Our Hearts {Trever}

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 Trever Carter

Scripture says that to God our lives are nearly but a mist, a vapor or a spray, that lasts only momentarily before vanishing into thin air. It is so hard for me to imagine that God can compare out lives to a dissipating aerosol spray yet organize them so intricately. God sees all of our entire lives and plans each and every one out. God is infinite, and scripture like this increases my awe factor of our God—He is so big; we are so small.

One of the coolest things for me to do is to sit back and reflect on how God has been working in my life over an extended period of time. Retrospect like this truly allows me to take a step back, widen my viewing lens and see that God has taken this evading mist and turned it into much, much more.  Though weeks, months or even years may pass between one event or another, I love to see how God has connected them and used them to help me grow and to teach me.

One of these moments happened early this week.  Pastor Joe was preaching on the Spiritually Mature Disciple, and the quality he was referencing in particular was that of generosity. A spiritually mature Christian has it encoded into their spirit to be generous, and there is so much joy and freedom that comes from that.

Nearly two years ago, around the New Year of my freshman year, I had a conversation with a mentor about the same thing.  We talked about generosity and how I was to live it out in my life and what it would look like. Be it time, talent or finance, we sought to define a standard of generosity that I could use as a baseline for my life.

Yet it seemed to just sit in the back of my mind and on the pages of a notebook (one I had to search for when I went to look back at what I had written) for the past two years.  I was generous with my talents and definitely with my time, but finance was one that was hard to make tangible and articulate. As a freshman or a sophomore, I was lucky to get some birthday money that was hard to divide between the things I had appropriated. So I prayed for the past few years that God would just continue to instill in me a generous heart.

And that is exactly what He did. Two years later, I now have a job that gives me a sizeable paycheck once every two weeks. With this, I am perfectly capable of dividing it up and upholding my financial standard of generosity—I’m able to save, to give to the church and to spend willingly on friends or family.

And I have found such a freedom and such a joy in it.

It has certainly been proven that it is better to give than to receive, and I have loved the fruits that have come from it. Giving up money and setting it aside was a hard thing for me to do—I worked for it and thought that it should be mine. But after a lot of prayer and a softened heart, I find it exciting and joyful to give away money that was never mine to start but God’s.

So I sit, two years past the initial conversation, and laugh at how God works. I smile with an ironic joy and marvel at how God so intricately weaves everything together and makes all things work out. God’s timing was for me to pray about a soft heart, which makes generosity all the easier and all the more glorious. I thank God for that.

TrevernewheadshotTrever Carter is a junior at Grayslake North High School. He enjoys running, playing lacrosse, and photography. He also likes to write, serve with the church, and spend time with his friends.