Happy Thanksgiving: A Story of Redemption and Grace

Every Thanksgiving, we take the opportunity as a Church family to give thanks to God during an open-mic service the Sunday before the big celebration.

Immanuel member and attendee Lisa Stewart shared this year her incredible story of God’s grace and redemption in her life during just the past year, beginning with when her four-year-old son essentially forced her to attend church for the first time last year during Thanksgiving Sunday.

Happy Thanksgiving, Immanuel family!

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.

The Monday After: Thanksgiving Service 2013 {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, November 24, 2013: Thanksgiving Service

by Andrew Kelley

When I was a little boy, learning to say please and thank you was a lot harder than just playing with Legos or riding my bike around the farm.

I’m happy to share with you that I’ve got this whole “say thank you when someone gives you something good” thing down now at the age of

Here, I’ll share some of those with you:

I’m thankful to my dad and mom for raising me in a Christian home and doing their very best as they trusted in God.

I’m thankful for certain friends who were there for me when I was in my worst state and stayed until I could go the distance on my own again.

I’m thankful for my wife and all her adorning splendor; she’s such a gift from God, and she is my sunshine. I can’t truly express the love I feel from her other than its pretty close to the Love that Christ has shown me over and over. She loves me for me and all that left over stuff no other woman in the world would love.

And lastly, just like I save my favorite part of dinner for last, I’m thankful for the very best on my list — my God and my Savior, Who has held me so tight I wouldn’t run anymore and who caught me before I fell on the rocks of life time after time. He is the reason I live and am alive today. He is the reason I am here now.

So, yeah, I’ve got this thankful thing down.

Kinda.

I’m still kind of like that kid who would rather play Legos or ride my bike around the farm when it comes to saying thanks for for the trials in life. And now that I’ve gone through a few, I can tell you the learning curve isn’t so easy. As I’ve reflected, though, on the trials, I am so thankful for the people who God Himself has placed along my path to help guide me.

Apparently, I’m not the only. I heard a lot of those expressions of gratitude yesterday — people thankful for others who came along side them.

As we recall many of the thankful people that came up and shared things they had never shared in front of so many, I see my God’s paintbrush painting our family picture. So many said they were thankful for their small group or friends or family or pastor. I am a strong supporter of community within the body of Christ because I saw, as you did I’m sure, the bonds that are made and the love that is shared when people come together to support each other in hard times. In all of this and what was spoken during both services, I believe the Church is stronger and our trust in our Saviour has gone deeper.

A few people stood out from second service. They sparked some more meaning and a broader perspective for me. Children came up and thanked God for things that may have been more cute than meaningful for some and then some came forward to reveal things that they really had a hard time sharing; it moved some so deeply. They gave thanks for what mattered most to them individually, and it shows me to be thankful for all things at all times like we are instructed to do in 1 Thessalonians 5:18.

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

I want to end with my favorite thanksgiving story, shared by Dave Anderson. Well, perhaps it’s more something he quoted from his dear wife, who shared it before she met her King face to face.

I am probably most thankful for this truth: “If I live, I win; and if I die, I win.”

I believe this was Sue Anderson’s “version” of Philippians 1:21

“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

So, yeah, I’m learning to be thankful for it all. Because when we see it all from the bigger picture perspective, we know God is working all things together for our good and His glory.

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. 

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