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.

Accelerate: Hosting Self-Discovered Truth with Micro Alpha

Chances are you’ve heard about Alpha, if not experienced it firsthand.

Through fellowship and an introduction to Christianity, Alpha invites us to “explore the meaning of life” and  meets seasonally at Immanuel Church. Micro Alpha, on the other hand, is designed to literally meet people where they are – in our communities, our neighborhoods and our homes – on a very small scale.

Pastor Joe Boerman and his wife Deb dove into hosting their first Micro-Alpha this fall, and when asked about the experience, Joe was quick to note, “I wish we had done this sooner.”

When asked about the Micro Alpha, Pastor Joe was quick to note, “I wish we had done this sooner.”

IC: What led you to host a Micro Alpha?

Joe: I was the first one to feel God’s invitation to do something in our neighborhood. We’ve lived on our block for 25 years, and I felt a nudging from God to explore spirituality with our neighbors. Deb and I were both feeling independently that God was calling us to take this step.

Deb: I felt the need to reach out to our neighbors, beyond our church, where I’m most often teaching Christians. I felt God was directly leading me and I said ‘okay’ to Joe.

IC: What makes Micro Alpha unique?

Joe: Beyond the small group setting, it seems to speak to people where they are, whether they have church or spirituality in their background or not. There are other materials that assume a Christian background coming in, but Alpha doesn’t – it builds from the ground up, laying a foundation. The best truth is truth that is self-discovered. The videos are done in such a way that there is a lot of self-discovery.

So many times when Jesus or his followers got together, there was a meal or breaking of bread. A very big part of Alpha (and Micro Alpha) is the sharing of a meal and it’s a great way to begin. We’ve found it breaks down barriers and helps people get beyond their own boundaries in sharing. It’s a commitment, but really worth it.

Deb: It’s been very comfortable and enjoyable. There are some people that would never go to a church Alpha, and Micro Alpha meets a need for people that have been hurt by the church. They like this setting.

IC: What advice would you give someone interested in hosting a Micro Alpha?

Joe: We have found people are open for community. They are open to spiritual discussion, as opposed to someone giving all the answers. My advice would be to do it sooner than later. And if you have fears about it, do the thing you fear. It has become a very enjoyable group that we look forward to meeting with every week.

Deb: I told our neighbors we’d be talking about the meaning of life from a Christian perspective. I was blown away that they said yes, that they come every week and [by] how interested they are. Just do it. It’ll just work out, especially the dinners. It’s not hard. Actually, the hard part is not answering their questions!

IC: What role do you see Micro Alpha playing at Immanuel?

Joe: Our group ends in a month, and they’re sad it will to be over soon. They’re already asking if they can do this again, and invite other neighbors.

We will continue to have the all-church Alpha. I see Micro Alphas as the future of Immanuel because there are so many people that will not come into the doors of a church building, but they will go to a neighbor’s house. That’s a lot of people. In order to reach them, we have to go through the home into the neighborhoods.

Deb: My vision is that our neighbors will someday want to host a Micro Alpha in their own homes with people they know, that it would pyramid. So what’s the future? I’m not a prophet, but I see that it could keep going.

IC: Speaking with participant Mike Lombardo, what’s your favorite part of the course?

Mike: The interactive approach. It’s is designed for the guests to interact, and that matters as much as the course itself. The video mediator (Nicky Gumbel) will ask if there are any questions, which is typically when the learning starts. The course and the guests are a magic recipe that results in a wonderful learning experience and furthers you down your path with God.

IC: Would you recommend this course to others?

Mike: I would, for a variety of reasons, especially if you’re trying to find direction in your life. Having a relationship with God and then discovering God’s direction for you is a lifelong journey. Many courses are designed to leave you with answers to equations or start you down a new path. If you walk away fulfilled that’s wonderful. However, if you walk away with questions, like most nights, that’s even better.

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. Ten percent of the money given will go toward local ministry — specifically toward the investment of Micro Alpha.  

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.

Local Outreach: Love, INC. {Immanuel Church Unleashed}

Because of your generous giving lives are being changed! Here’s a story of how God is at work through Immanuel people in our own community! Thank you for your generosity!

by Cyndi Pleasant, Immanuel attendee and co-leader of the Love INC ICU team

Listening to Pastor Joe’s sermon and hearing the words from Isaiah 61 a few weeks ago, resonated with me after a day of volunteering with members of the Immanuel family and our partners from Love Inc.

Once a month several people from Immanuel come together to deliver basic necessities and the Love of Jesus to families and individuals that are starting out in an apartment or home after a time of loss and despair. Entering an apartment with only a chair and a lamp … a hospital bed to sleep on because that’s what you were given upon leaving the hospital after surgery, the emptiness of this apartment became quite noticeable. It made me aware of how much I have, and how much I have that I could live without. Yet even without a couch, a dresser or a coffee table, there is thankfulness for no longer having to live in a shared living arrangement where personal space is a coveted commodity.

The joy we shared as we spoke about Jesus’ love for these recipients of used furniture and household items was by far the best part of the day. We gave out Bibles and prayed together before going on to our next delivery. We encouraged joining in worship with a nearby church and offered names of churches in their area. On we went after big hugs and even bigger smiles.

In the words of Pastor Joe: “The deepest joy, the longest lasting joy comes when we join hands with God in the mission to serve the poor, the needy and those in bondage.”

Joining God in this mission of sharing the joy of knowing Him truly does bring the lightest step and the deepest joy. If you haven’t had this experience you truly haven’t lived. We are blessed to be a part of a church family that offers so many opportunities to join together in this mission.

If you’d like to be involved in an Immanuel Church Unleashed project, visit our website and learn more!

Local Outreach: Community Closet {Immanuel Church Unleashed}

Because of your generous giving lives are being changed! Here’s a story of how God is at work through Immanuel people in our own community! Thank you for your generosity!
By Krista Malley, Immanuel attendee

This past February, I had the extreme privilege to partner with New Hope Community Church in Round Lake Beach as the church opened its bi-monthly “community closet.”

As we prepared for the event, I was so touched to see the overflow of donations as people from all over the community donated their gently used items to give to those in need. As we cleaned and sorted to prepare for the event, I was amazed to see the garage area full of items ready to be gifted to others. All of the items were displayed by size, type and gender. I expected to see items carelessly thrown in boxes, but New Hope had done an excellent job at creating a clean, organized, warm environment.

On the day of the “community closet,” I was excited to see families show up even before we opened! We were able to serve over 50 families and bless them with needed items for their families.

The children had an area set up for them to play in while their parents shopped. We were able to provide the adults with personal shoppers to assist each family in the search for their greatest household needs. My greatest blessing was explaining to the families that God loves them and that we were participating in this event to show them His love.

It might have been a cold day, but the spirits were warm as families left with bags of treasures, candy for their kids, warm smiles from our workers and information on ways that they could plug in to a local church and become part of a bigger family united with Christ.

What a blessing to see God work through His people!

If you’d like to be involved in an Immanuel Church Unleashed project, visit our website and learn more!