Philadelphia Spring Break Trip
March 16-24, 2018 - This team of students, college students, and adults worked in public schools, an inner-city church plant, and on the Drexel University campus.
April 6-13, 2018 - The focus of the trip was working with church planters. The team did house to house visitation and ministered in villages where the local missionaries and pastors are trying to start churches. Amy Jones also led a seminar on photography as an outreach in partnership with a local church.
Opportunities to partner with FAMM in South Asia:
Message from our Philadelphia Mission Partner
2017 – A Year of Change
Change is a funny thing isn’t it? Consider with me these thoughts as I look back on 2017….
I love and even find comfort in the fact that we serve a God who in His very essence is UNCHANGING. Think about that truth with me for a minute. He was UNCHANGED when He took on flesh. His Holiness was only magnified as He walked among us. Jesus said over and over that if you saw Him, you saw the Father. His words and mission was the Father’s mission. He didn’t change when He came to us and He won’t change when He comes for us. He was the same when He was the little babe in the manger as He was when He separated the light from the darkness. So, whether it’s His promises, attributes, plans, or His everlasting love, we can know that they— like Him— never CHANGE.
Yet, you and I live in a culture, a world, and bodies that are constantly CHANGING. Consider your own bodies and the revolution that is happening in it every day. Your skin changes every 27 days and every cell in your body changes every 7 years. If that doesn’t blow your mind, take a moment to look around and consider how much things have changed in just the past 5 years. My 102-year-old grandmother told me to post her picture on Facebook this past week and laughed and said, “I never thought I would be saying that in my lifetime!”
This is the tension that I wrestle with as I look back on this year and our ministry here in Philadelphia/South Jersey. I know that I serve a God who is UNCHANGING and STEADY. I am aware that I live and am on mission in a world that is ever changing. Change is hard, but I also have come to realize that it’s necessary. Change reminds us all of where and what our dependence is truly on versus where it should be. This year marked 4 years since we arrived here in the Northeast from Tampa. It has been a journey of constant, but necessary change. I believe change is where God has done and is doing His greatest work. This truly is the beauty of God’s sanctifying work.
This past year, we have seen many of our family that have served with us be called out to other places to go and plant the Gospel. Jim and Tami Webb, who faithfully served 4 years here, are now back in Florida, excited to share all that they have learned and experienced through this church plant experience as they seek to declare and demonstrate the Good News of the Gospel within their new community in the Seminole Heights area of Tampa. In January, we will be sending Brent and Ann Marie Hardgrave to Reno, Nevada so they can plant the gospel in a spiritually impoverished community. They prayed and intentionally picked a house— not of their choosing, but led by the Spirit of God they chose a neighborhood that presented the greatest opportunity to plant the Gospel among the lost. Both couples said their time here changed every aspect of their decision-making. Isn’t that what the Gospel does?
This past April, we watched as the life of a young lady named Susan be both changed and transformed by the Gospel. I got to share the Gospel with her and she made the decision to follow Christ! At one point in her life, she was addicted to heroin, homeless, and abused. She is now leading our church in a ministry to help what she calls “her family on the streets.” Since May 1st, she led us to make over 5,000 Blessing Bags and mobilizes a team every week to help reach out and distribute each one of those bags to those beautiful folks on the street. One week a young girl named Sammi was addicted and homeless when she received a Blessing Bag. It, like every blessing bag, contained a handwritten note that simply said, “You are loved and your life matters.” This note and gesture of love gave her hope. She also found in the bag a list of resource numbers that offered her help. She reached out and now she is off the streets, in an apartment, and in a recovery program. She is being reconciled with her parents and her children, and each day is being transformed by God’s grace. Isn’t that what the Gospel does?
Chris and Gen Bartlett, who were with us 4 years ago, are now on mission in Niger, West Africa. They have just baptized their first converts and are busy making disciples in a place that is home to 99.7% Muslim population. They got to come back this year for the first time since they left 2 years ago and they shared how God is continuing to radically change their lives. They said they were blown away at how their experiences at Grace Falls and our approach to storying through the Bible prepared them to minister to the people. Isn’t that what the Gospel does?
We are discipling and working with 6 new followers of Jesus in Wildwood, NJ. We are joining them in asking God to use them to plant the Gospel there. We are also working with staff and students in a couple of Philadelphia schools. These schools are overcrowded, underfunded, and so many share with us that they feel hopeless. We seek to be His light by showing His love in the midst of such darkness and the result is we are seeing lives changed. We have teachers, parents, and students constantly asking us why we love them, why we are so willing to serve them— and will we keep coming? Isn’t that what the Gospel does?
We have a young man named Carlos who came to our outreach event this fall with his family. He lives with his girlfriend and between them they have 5 kids. They are by their own admission struggling and they only came because we had a free event for kids. We push our folks to constantly look for where God is working. We also share with them that any event is simply a stage by which God can show us His activity. Randy & Traci saw Carlos and Emily at this event and sensed God working so they reached out. They loved them, served them and helped them have a great experience that day. Carlos and Emily were so moved that they told us they changed their plans and decided to come to our Sunday Gathering. What is even more amazing is the fact that they haven’t missed one yet. Carlos is changing and its exciting to have a front row seat and the opportunity to witness his transformation! We took the Lord’s Supper recently and Carlos was in tears. I found out that this was the first time he saw it and really understood the significance of it. He didn’t take it, because he said he didn’t feel worthy of it and he wasn’t sure he truly believed yet. He said that in tears to our whole congregation. A congregation that is filled with former prostitutes, addicts, divorcees, homeless, abused, and the list could go on, but now many of them have found a new life in Christ. They began to one by one speak words of life into Carlos and his family and it led to them hearing the Gospel and praying a simple prayer that day that said, “God if you are real, show me and make it abundantly clear to me soon.” Isn’t that what the Gospel does?
I’m not sure what 2018 has in store for us but I do know that we serve a God who is UNCHANGING and STEADY. I look forward to any and all changes, knowing that every change is always for our good and His glory. I may not like it at the time, but I can trust it. Pray for us as we seek to stay faithful and focused. We know that God is continuing to open doors for us in Philadelphia. He is showing us the great need that exists there and we are ready to do whatever He asks of us.
We need to raise financial support to help us to continue the work here. Many of our faithful partners are transitioning off this up coming year and we will lose 75% of our funding. To be honest, this change is scary but this is where we can trust in a God whose promises are unchanging! He said the righteous will never go begging for bread. We are focused on our part, which is the sanctifying work of God daily in our lives. We know that our righteousness isn’t the answer. It is His righteousness working in us and through us. We welcome the change and even want that change, knowing that He truly is the bread of life! So here are some ways you can pray and even partner with us this next year:
• Pray about becoming a Monthly Partner. We need $3,000 a month, so if 50 people give less than $3 a day next year we can help reach the 14.2 million here that need Jesus.
• Pray for us as we are hoping to establish and run a Ministry Center in the heart of Philadelphia.
• Pray to the Lord of the Harvest to send us Laborers who will come and join us in pushing back the lostness that exists here in Philadelphia/South Jersey. Less than 3% of population knows Jesus.
• Pray for our Intentional Discipleship process to continue and multiply in 2018.
• Pray for wisdom and clarity in any and all decisions.
• Pray for a Christian Entrepreneur to come, seek, and find ways to help us take the Gospel holistically into neighborhoods in a sustainable way that helps community and serves as a open door for the Gospel.
• Pray for our Health Insurance. We can’t afford the upcoming increase in premiums and our family needs insurance.
• Pray for our son who has special needs and wisdom as we navigate through avenues and obstacles related to his care and development.
• Pray for us as we provide care for my 102-year-old grandmother. Pray that we do all we can to help her and love her, but also don’t neglect ourselves.
• Pray for us as we continue to meet with key leaders and gatekeepers in the city of Philadelphia. Pray for God’s favor and open doors for us to share.
• Pray for the addiction that exists here. There have been over 2,000 deaths last year and many other “close calls.” Narcan has been used over 20,000 times since 2014 in New Jersey.
• Pray for us to find a Grant Writer to help us with a Ministry Center.
• Pray for us to find a way to help and partner with foster care system in South Jersey. The number of kids in foster care in our county has risen close to 70%.
Never forget that He died so we can live,
Buff McNickle, Pastor of Grace Falls Church