Psalm 139:23

"Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way of the everlasting."

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Christian Chronicle: A conversation with Kayla Bilby

The Christian Chronicle: A conversation with Kayla Bilby

Here is the link to the article about Contact featured in the Christian Chronicle. Thank you to everyone for all your support.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Taking back the fight!

For those of you who do not know... Curtis & I got engaged a few weeks ago! Getting engaged has caused me to really think about all of the reasons that I want to share my life with Curtis. 

One of the most important reasons he is the man that I will spend the rest of my life with is because he is a man that honors  God first! He does this by being more concerned with others than himself. He is constantly looking for ways to better my life, as well as the lives of the Contact kids. And he is daily searching for the direction that God wants us to take. 

Another reason that I want to marry Curtis West is because he is a man that prays!... Yes praying would fall under honoring God, but because I believe that prayer is the single most important way to grow your personal relationship with the Lord praying would be a separate reason for marrying him. He prays about everything, but most importantly he prays with and for Contact kids. Intercession for God's children has become such a huge part of our relationship. I love to hear him pray for Contact, for the kids, and for wisdom in how to go about ministry.

Thirdly I want to marry him because he is my friend before he is my fiance. We met when I was sixteen. We were friends for two years before we started dating during my senior year of high school. During that time I learned so much about him; his faith, his interests, his family, etc. Today, five years later, I am proud to say that we are still friends first. He is the person that I call when something amazing happens at work, or I do well on a test at school. He is the person that I call when I've had a bad day & need someone to make me laugh. He is the one that I want to go to football games with & do exciting challenges with (aka ride a canoe down rapids on summer vacation.. or go tubing with while Grandpa tries to throw us off the tube :D ). He is included in all of these aspects of my life because he is a great friend to me before he is a great fiance. 

Fourthly I want to marry him because I trust him. I trust that he will make decisions that honor God within our relationship. I trust that ten years from now he is still going to be the man that is there every single day. He isn't someone that grows weary of doing good. For this reason I can trust that he is going to fight for souls with me. 

Last but certainly not least I want to marry him because he provides incredible partnership in ministry. Once again I realize that this combines with several different aspects, however, as someone who plans to spend the rest of my life in full-time ministry I was looking for a spouse who could share in that. Curtis does an incredible job within the ministry at Contact. He brings such a patient, loving, and kind spirit to Contact. He's incredibly slow to anger... that is unless someone has something negative to say about inner city ministry. He is quickly angered when someone diminishes the work that God is accomplishing in Tulsa. 

Actually, that is true for both of us. We are easily angered when it comes to ministry, because to us North Tulsa is not just the "bad part of town." The kids aren't simply "chaotic kids that don't know how to act." And it certainly isn't "somewhere people should stay away from." To Curtis & I North Tulsa is a place that desperately needs Jesus & as a couple we are willing to fight for those souls! We know that inner city ministry isn't going to be comfortable... we are okay with that. If Jesus wasn't comfortable on the cross what gives us the right to be comfortable in HIS church? Ministry is a fight for souls! It is not supposed to be easy. However, the blood of Jesus Christ on the cross makes it worth it every single day. Because Jesus fought the hardest battle a man ever faced when He was separated from God because of our sins on that cross, we will fight the battle now. HE took HELL for us! The least we can do is tell others about the price HE paid. 

All of that said, I know that marriage is not easy and I know that ministry is not easy, but today I am absoultely ecstatic about embarking on both journeys. Curtis & I are committed to allowing God to lead our steps in ministry. As long as HE leads & we simply follow we cannot fail. HE will win souls in Tulsa & HE does not need Curtis & I to do so. HE won when Jesus died & rose again. However, we are willing to fight the good fight & proclaim the victory for as long as HE wants us in ministry. I am looking forward to the plans that HE has for us both as individuals and as a couple united in HIM. I am so grateful for both the man God has given me & the ministry position that HE has provided.

North Tulsa is not worth the coat on my back, or the money placed in the collection plate every week. They were worth the Son of God dying for. Contact was worth dying for!... People who we haven't even met yet were worth your son dying for! And because of that we take on the fight... YOUR fight for SOULS! We know that we are not encouraged to help the poor, but Lord we are COMMANDED to do so! And we want to answer that call

1 John 3:17
"If anyone has material possessions & sees his brother in need but has not pity on him how can the love of God be in that person?"

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Student works in and on heart of the city

Student works in and on heart of the city

Recently Emily Greele, a student at Oklahoma Christian, wrote an article in the Talon about Contact Church. You can read her post by clicking on the link.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Blessed BEYOND Measure!

Wow!!! I do not really even have the words to describe how overwhelmed I am with blessings right now. As many of you know, The Christian Chronicle published an article about Contact this month. I am still in disbelief that there is a national magazine telling the stories of the incredible kids that I work with and the amazing things that the Lord is doing at Contact. It is absolutely inconceivable! I love working at Contact & am so grateful that Contact is where the Lord has chosen for me to be.

I simply want to say thank you!.. 

Thank you Lynn McMillon for taking the time to visit Contact and to write the article. You have influenced me so much throughout my college experience.

Thank you Ron & Judy Babbit for being my mentors over the years & for telling me years ago that I should be in ministry.

Thank you Joel, Kaytie, Jamie, D, Courtnay, Dillan, Ariel, and Houston for letting me work alongside and learn from you. We truly are blessed with an incredible team.

Thank you Dallas Koehn for continually critiquing my writings about Contact, as well as being concerned about my own spiritual walk.

Thank you Gary Kennedy (Grandpa) "for having all the faith in the world in me" & teaching me all my life what ministry looks like. I could not have asked for a better example of what real christianity looks like.

Thank you Greg Kennedy for teaching the boys for sometime now. They desperately need examples of good men! Thank you for filling that role.

Thank you Shelly Logan for working alongside me in everything that I am involved in at Contact & for continually challenging me to be a better Christian woman. 

Thank you Mickey Bilby & Ladean Bilby for continually supporting me in the work at Contact. I appreciate everything you do & have done so that I can continue there. 

Thank you Brent Bilby, Maddi Kennedy, & Brock Kennedy for being the best sibling/cousins anyone could ever ask for! You've encouraged me so much just by using your gifts to touch other people. 

Thank you Curtis West for being a man that honors God first and through so caring about the children we work with and helping them know God. I am blessed to have such an amazing partner in ministry & am so grateful for everything you have done. 

Thank you to all of Park Plaza for your continual emotional, spiritual, and financial support. I was truly blessed to grow up in a place that is mission-minded and contains so many powerful examples.

And finally... thank you to every single person who supports me in any way, shape, or form. A ministry like this is impossible without every single one of you. Your prayers mean more to me then you will ever know! Thank you for your emotional, spiritual, and financial support. And thank you for taking the time to read my blogs, support letters, and The Christian Chronicle. You have each blessed my life beyond measure.

Lord, thank you for placing me at Contact! Thank you for each  & every person who has supported me over the years. Thank you for each and every child that you have allowed me to work with. Never let me forget that it is you who gave me a job in ministry. Thank you for using me. I pray that you will continue to use me however you see fit. You truly have blessed me more than I could have ever imagined. You are an awesome God!

"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all that we ask or imagine. According to His power that is at work within us."- Ephesians 3:20

Monday, September 19, 2011

It's all about the LABEL!

Lately I have become aware of just how often christians place labels on those around them... "He's just a BAD KID!, "Well she's a LESBIAN!", "She's just a crackhead!", "He's a drunk!", "She's just a TOUGH person to deal with.. It's just how she is!"...

We all do it! Every single one of us at one point or another decided that we had the right to put a label on someone else. For whatever reason we begin to decide that we are better then whoever we decided to label. I became painfully aware of this reality a few weeks ago.

Curtis & I had decided to take two of the boys from Contact to the Union/Jenks game. They were incredibly excited. The 7 year old wanted five dollars to give his friend for her birthday party the next day. I made a deal with him that if he was good at the game & didn't beg for anything I would pay him five dollars. He was wonderful at the game! We had a blast. So the next day I kept my word & took him with me to the bank so that I could pull cash out. On the way there this conversation took place..

"Miss Kayla, someday Jesus is gonna come back & get us."
I replied, "Yes He is baby! We just have to keep loving Him!"
He started to cry & replied, "He's gonna get me too because I am good. I'm not a bad kid Miss Kayla! I'm not! I only steal when I don't have any food. Will you please tell my mom I got money for being good? She thinks I'm bad all the time."

Hearing this little boy so torn up about being a "bad" kid ripped my heart out. He is right! He isn't a bad kid, but he has been labeled as such. He was labeled by his mom, by his teachers, principals, people at church, etc. I too have been guilty of labeling the kids. Even though I never speak it to them I still mentally label them & I am just as guilty for the destruction that labels cause.

Another time in which I saw the pain that comes from labeling was when Ron & I did a Bible study with one of the families. We walked into this home with a preconceived idea. We know the Mom of these children is a lesbian & her girlfriend lives in their apartment. Her son struggles greatly because of her sexual choice. However, before labeling her none of us had taken the time to ask her why? Or how we could help her get out of her sin.

That day Ron asked her two questions. "Where are you from?" "And what is the worst thing that has ever happened to you." She was from St. Louis. From what I have been told St. Louis is a nasty place! There are parts of town that you shouldn't even go to during the day. She went on to say she had been sexually abused from the time she was two years old on by every man in her family.. Grandpa, Dad, Uncle, brothers, & the list continued. 

For the first time in my life my heart broke for someone who is completely wrapped up in homosexuality. Why would she want anything to do with a man? Throughout her life men have caused her nothing but unbearable pain. Does this make what she is doing acceptable? Absolutely not! It is wrong.. it is sin. But does she deserve to be labeled any more for her sin then I do? No she doesn't! We can call it a lifestyle of sin to justify our label placement or we can look square in the mirror & remind ourselves that we too live in a lifestyle of sin. 

As I've read the Gospels over & over never once have I seen Jesus give anyone a LABEL. HE is the only one to ever walk this earth that had the power & the right to condemn. However, time after time HE met sinners with grace. The only label Jesus ever placed on a sinner was "YOU ARE WORTH DYING FOR!" HE did not judge, or label, or condemn. HE climbed down in the trenches & HE TOUCHED! We are called to be the hands & feet of Jesus Christ through His spirit... Nothing less! I am by no means suggesting that sin is of no importance anymore. It is of the utmost importance. We have violated the heart of God & nothing we ever do will change that. Sin is still just as wrong today as it was 2,000 years ago. Speak truth. Push people to be who God called them to be, BUT let GOD handle the judgment. And never forget that the only label we can Biblically give to anyone is "YOU ARE WORTH DYING FOR" Speak that over every single person you touch every day & speak it to yourself when you look in the mirror... "YOU ARE WORTH DYING FOR!"

Philippians 3:12-14 "Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers & sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind & straining towards what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Ordinary people doing ordinary things

"... Later along came Joseph & Moses & many other ordinary people that the movie also is not about. God is the one who picks them & directs them & works miracles through them."
- Crazy love

Recently I become aware of a common misconception regarding God's work within us. Growing up I was always amazed by the extraordinary things God did through ordinary people. Moses couldn't speak and yet he led God's people out of Egypt. David was just a shepherd boy and yet he killed a Giant. Simple fishermen become evangelists. We teach all about the ordinary people doing extraordinary things, but what about ordinary people that only do ordinary things? 

Throughout CBC (Contact Bible Club) I have continually been reminded of the importance of the ordinary things. Two weeks ago we went on a field trip to the Muskogee Water Park. One of my buddies is a boy from Parkview Apartments. He is a total fireball, full of energy and always finding trouble. However, I absolutely love him! He has a precious heart and on occasions he shares his heart with the Contact crew. That morning he informed me that he had two dollars to use at the concession stand. To fully understand the importance of this story, you have to remember that I work in inner city Tulsa. Two dollars may not be much to me, but it is a lot of money to a Contact kid. 

Anyway, when we went to set our things together at "Contact's table", Dre approached me with a Dr. Pepper in his hand. He said, "Miss Kayla, I bought you a Dr. Pepper. I love you!" I was overwhelmed by his small act of kindness. There is nothing special about a Dr. Pepper. It is just a soda. However, there is something significant about the heart of that little boy. He spent his own money that day to bless me. No one told him to do so. I was amazed!

I shared this story in Children's Worship this Sunday. We were discussing being salt & light to those around us. Now that my paradigm has been shifted I wanted to share that shift with the Contact kids. God isn't always about big, extravagant things. He is in every single act of service displayed in this world. This is where I am today... desiring to convey the importance of allowing God to work within the small things... holding doors, buying someone a pop, writing an encouragement note, asking how someone is and actually caring what the answer is, etc. 

Although I still believe that God uses drastic measures to meet His people, at this given time I am focused on the small, every day ways that I see my Lord working through the Contact kids. I was blessed to be a part of Contact Bible Camp this summer. The kids grew in magnificent ways. I could share countless stories of the selflessness I saw in the hearts of the Contact kids this summer. God is at work in the hearts & minds of His children & I look forward to continuing to watch Him do ordinary things through ordinary people for the purpose of His kingdom. 

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Saying Goodbye...

Today Donna & Brian are moving to Virginia :(. Yesterday I went by to give the kids some pictures they had been asking for & to say goodbye. It was probably the hardest goodbye I have ever said. Almost eight years ago we met the Alt family. They moved in across the street. At the time they only had two children; Logan and Lauren. Our dog had just had puppies & the kids were enthralled with them. Brian brought them over almost every day to pet the puppies. About a year later I started babysitting for them & from then on my heart belonged to this family.

In the past seven years we have shared so many memories... some good and some very sad. I will share a few of my favorite stories of the kids...

This year I took Logan out for his birthday. We went to target & he was able to pick out his birthday present. This conversation took place in the car...

Logan: Kayla, really, when are you gonna get married?
Me: Idk Logan! I have to find a boy that wants to marry me.
Logan: Kayla there are lots of boys who would want to marry you if you would stop dumping them.  
Since I went off to college Logan & Lauren's biggest concern has been that I find a man to "take care of me". He told Curtis not long ago, "Maybe she will marry you... if she doesn't dump you first."

Lauren is a tad-bit of a drama queen. There are several crazy stories that I could share about her, but one of my favorite memories of Lauren is when Donna told us that the twins were gonna be boys (Lexi & Linds... obviously the dr. was wrong). Lauren was upset because she didn't want to be the only girl in the family. I had always called her my princess & proceeded to tell her how special it was that she would be my only princess. Therefore, when the twins were born & they were girls the first thing Lauren said to me was, "They are not your princess Kayla! I'm your only princess!" So the twins became my baby girls & Lauren is still my princess. She told Lindsey this story yesterday. 

There are so many things that describe Landon... he is absolutely hilarious. Donna & Brian had planned on only having three kids. Because I thought Landon was the last baby I spoiled him rotten. He is still spoiled by me :). When the twins were born & Landon was put in a big bed he was notorious for never staying in his bed. Every time I was there he would come out to the living-room & say "Kayla hold you!" This would result in me laying in bed with him until he fell asleep. Even now he still asks me to lay with him until he falls asleep.

Now for the famous twins! The stories that happen when you are close to twins are countless. Lex & Linds loved to make messes together. My favorite story of them was the last time I kept the twins before Lexi got her transplant. I had come back from college during the week so that I could see Lexi before she had to go back to St. Louis. When I got to their house the babies were down for a nap. I could hear them talking in their bedroom. When I opened the door there was a huge mess all over the floor! All of their stuffed animals, diapers, and wipes were scattered all over the floor. I said, "Oh my goodness girls! Who made this mess?" Lexi said, "I not do nothing. Lindsey do it! I lay right here." I said, "Linds, you made this mess?!" She said, "Yes, but I pick it up." They were so funny together.

Leland... the baby of 6. Leland has the most adorable smile. I love that little boy so stinkin' much. Lauren's favorite memory of Leland & I was the first time I every babysat him. He was just a few weeks old. When I was changing his diaper for the first time I wasn't fast enough & he peed on me. Lauren thought that was just the funniest thing. However, my favorite memory of Leland is from the other night. Curtis & I were taking pictures with the kids before their big move. I jokingly said, "Donna, you can move but let me keep your kids." Leland replied, "I get my shoes Kayla. I go with you." He really did go grab his shoes. It was so stinking cute!

I am so thankful for the many years I got to be a part of the Alt's family. Donna & Brian have taught me so much about how to be a faithful Christian wife and mother. They will never know the way they impacted me simply by how they lived their lives. Their love for the Lord & their strength in the midst of terrible tragedy has changed my life forever. I will miss them more then I could ever describe, but I know that when you form relationships like we have they do not end when someone has to move. I look forward to continuing our relationships & to the visit to D.C. 

Thank you Lord for placing such special people in my life. Please be with them as they transition into their new home. Give them special friends who love you. Be with each of the kids & help them to enjoy their new home. Give them comfort as I know their hearts are hurting today. Please bless them abundantly as they continue to follow you!
In Jesus Name,


Monday, June 20, 2011

God's got HIS hand on you

This past week I was privileged to spend a week at camp with our Contact kids. Camp is probably my favorite time in ministry. After all the crazy planning is over with we have the opportunity to get kids away from the junk and focus only on the cross. In the midst of all the craziness there are quiet moments with the kids that light a fire in my soul. This past week I was reminded of how truly blessed I am that God has given me the opportunity to work in ministry.

There were several moments on this trip that I got to see Christ through the eyes of the kids. On Tuesday night we had a bad hail storm (yes we were in Oklahoma). I was checking on all the kids who were having moderate to extreme panic attacks. When I got to a group of boys from my 1st & 2nd grade class I asked if everyone was okay? One of the boys replied, "Yes Miss Kayla. Poppy prayed with us so we wouldn't be scared & the storm ain't so bad no more." In my attempt to keep the kids "calm" I hadn't stopped long enough to hit my knees. Yet a 7 year old little boy did not only hit his knees, but he grabbed the hands of his friends as well. 

The next day one of the little girl's began an intriguing conversation about my boyfriend. She said, "Miss Kayla, Curtis doesn't hit you cause he's a good man. He honors God." I replied, "Why should Curtis respect me baby girl?" She said,"Cause God made girls beautiful, smart, & good." In order to understand the depth of this conversation, you have to know that about a month ago I read her Psalm 139 & told her that God made her beautiful, smart, and good. Hearing her not only remember what I had told her, but be able to recognize that a man that honors God respects the woman he loves is unbelievable! Needless to say I was amazed by what God had communicated to her heart through his word.

Another way that I was able to see God at work at summer camp was in the words, actions, and attitude of one of the interns. One of my buddies from college is working at Contact for the summer. He seems to be drawn to the children that require the most attention & the most amount of work. Long story short one of the boy's was continually causing problems. Dillan came to me and said, "Kayla, he's telling me he wants to go home, but if we send him home we failed." Wow! Most people would be ready to quit, rather Dillan's love for HIS Father compelled him to continue loving a kid that was being incredibly difficult to love. Because of Dillan's boldness he is developing a lasting relationship with this boy. His energy & love for the Lord has been such an encouragement to me. 

Although each of these experiences convicted my heart, I was most convicted when one of the girl's asked me to study the word with her because she wanted to be baptized. Up until 6 months ago she would not have even thought to ask me. I had tried on a few occasions to spend time with her and it was always the same result.. "I don't know you like that Miss Kayla." Now all this time later she trust me enough to allow me to study the word with her. We read Colossians 1.. I pointed out verse 7, "It's as vigorous in you now as when you learned it from our friend & close associate Epaphras. He is one reliable worker for Christ! I could always depend on him." As Christians we should all desire for those words to be what people have to say about us. The legacy I want Jeneva to leave at Contact Church is that she is a great worker for Christ. Baptism doesn't make us perfect... we all make mistakes after we come out of the water, but if Jesus can take a man who denied him 3 times before the rooster crowed & make him the rock on which HE built HIS church, HE can use any of us... our mistakes, our doubts, our fears, our desires... HE uses everything for HIS glory. 

After studying with Jeneva, Ron drove down & baptized her. She along with 6 others committed their lives to Christ. Now our job as ministers & friends is to continue to walk with them. The greatest joy I have had thus far in ministry is watching kids I have formed relationships with rise out of the water as a new person in CHRIST. I am so thankful for the many ways GOD was glorified at camp. I am grateful for the hearts that were changed & I continue to pray that those changes are permanent stepping stones to be built on. 

2 Corinthians 4:1 "Therefore, since through God's mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart."

Monday, May 30, 2011

Look at me now

This past Friday I was privileged in attending an 8th grade graduation for a few of the Contact kids. One of the girls I have known since she was five years old. I think I will always see that 5 year old little girl when I look at her. Anyway, I hugged her after graduation & said, "I'm so proud of you baby girl!" She replied, "I'm proud of myself Miss Kayla! I did it!" In all the time I've known her this was the first time I had ever heard her say she was proud of herself. What a powerful statement! She worked for something and achieving her goal was able to give her both dignity and pride in herself.

Although there were several things about the ceremony that touched me, it was one of the speeches that convicted me to the core. The gentleman speaking said, "You are from the wrong side of town. You've heard it all before. 'Nothing good comes from North Tulsa,' but today I challenge you to continue moving forward. Get that high school diploma, move on to college, & come back with a degree in hand. Then you can look at all of us & say 'Look at me now!'" Wow! What a shift in perspective. This man took the negative and made it a positive. It is not about where you come from BUT where you are GOING. Contact's kids are going somewhere! And it is our job to stand behind them. 

Someday I pray that we have kids that come back and teach in the poverty stricken schools in Tulsa. I also pray that we have kids that come back & work alongside our team of ministers at Contact. Contact kids that will someday be adults will have an ability that I will never have... an ability to understand life in the projects. If I stay in this ministry for fifty years I will never fully understand the life the Contact kids live... I haven't lived it. However, I can love the kids with all I've got. I can show up at their schools & support them in every aspect of their lives. I can encourage them to block out others & only listen to the voice of their Father; the voice of truth.

 I look forward to the day when kids will come back & say "Look at me now Miss Kayla! Look at what God did in my life!" These kids have potential that blows me out of the water. They simply need people... teachers, ministers, friends, etc. standing behind them. Like myself, they need someone to believe in them. My most important job as a minister is to love with everything I have & loving with everything I have means pushing these kids to reach their full potential. When God is for us who can be against us? I am excited about this summer & the things that the Lord will accomplish. I rejoice for the graduations that have taken place & I thank God for the many people who have touched the kids this year. I will continue to pray for the teachers, administration, volunteers, & ministers that are desperately trying to speak truth into the lives of kids in inner city Tulsa. 

Thank you Lord for the successes we have experienced this semester. Thank you for the hearts of our sweet kids. I am continually humbled when the kids glorify you. A few weeks ago I watched as a 6 year old dug change out of his pocket to give in the collection plate. Thank you for allowing me to witness these moments of faith. Thank you for putting me at Contact & letting me be a part of something so much bigger than I can imagine. Continue to bless us & teach us how to better convey your love.

Proverbs 1:2-5 "For attaining wisdom & discipline; for understanding words of insight; for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the young- let the wise listen & add to their learning let the discerning get guidance." 

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

God is real

I am currently teaching my 1st & 2nd grade class about the miracles Jesus performed. So far we have learned about turning water into wine, healing of the royal official's son, catching a large number of fish & Jesus healing the man with leprosy. The theme for the children's ministry this year is "Following in the footsteps of Jesus." So we are spending a lot of time talking about the life Jesus lived while He walked this earth. So much that when I asked how we know that the verse John 8:12 is in the New Testament? One of my little boys replied "Cause we don't read the Old Testament!" (Wake up call to the minister! HELLO!... Needless to say next year we will be reading the Old Testament). 

Anyway, my goal for my 1st & 2nd grade Bible class is a little different... I want them to understand how Jesus' miracles proved that He was who He claimed to be. This week we talked about Jesus telling the Leper that his healing is his testimony. I wrote on a poster "How do we know God is real?" I told my kids that a testimony is something God has done for us that helps us to know HE is real. Each child had to tell me how they know God is real, their testimony, & we wrote it on the poster. One of my boys said, "God gave me a new pair of shoes." Over Spring Break I had invited the little boy to come over for a day. We took him to the movies & to dinner. At the movies he told me his feet were hurting because the sole of his shoes were coming off... It was the only pair he had. I told him that I would see what we could do about his shoes. I took him to Target to buy a new pair of shoes. At Target I discovered not only did he not have shoes, he also didn't have any socks. So he got to pick out a new pair of shoes, socks, and a jacket. As is often the case in this ministry, my heart was once again broken over the pain that is right in front of my eyes. (I forgot to mention that he lost a tooth at my house so Miss Kayla got to play Tooth Fairy...It truly is the little things that make me love my job so much).

On Sunday when he proclaimed that he knows HIS God is real because HE gave him a new pair of shoes, I was absolutely in awe of God's goodness! That is what I wanted the little boy to understand that night. I did not want him walking away thinking Miss Kayla bought me a pair of shoes. I wanted to enforce the idea that God had given Miss Kayla the funds to buy him what he desperately needed. God took the temporary & made it an eternal opportunity. It wasn't about me or money or a pair of shoes... It was about a child having the opportunity to know HIS creator & the love that HE has for HIS child! Money will come & it will go. Shoes will not last. Eventually they will wear out like the other pair. But that child's soul will last an eternity! His relationship with the Lord will be eternal. 

Honestly, I wish I could tell you that the story I shared was a one time thing. From the deepest point of brokenness inside my heart I desire to tell you that my Contact kids for the majority get what they need, but that would simply be shielding you from reality. The truth is none of my kids have everything they need. All of them go without at least one essential; food, beds, shoes, clothes, underwear, affection, love; etc. And I don't have what it takes to provide for all of their needs! 

This is the brokenness within the United States that is overlooked every single day. I was challenged yesterday in chapel to have the courage to go to China. And yes it take courage to go on a foreign mission trip. It takes courage to leave your place of comfort, wherever that may be. However, mission trips are easy... hear me out... I did not say they are not beneficial or they don't accomplish great things.. I said they are easy.  I love foreign mission. I've been to Honduras, I've been to the Dominican Republic, I want to go to Haiti & Africa. I have nothing against foreign mission... I have a problem with this idea that mission trips counteract for the other 358 days a year that we get to close our eyes & pretend the same problems don't exist in our own country. On a mission trip you get to go somewhere & pour out your heart for a week & then you get to leave. As a few months roll by you go right back to living your normal life. You can't leave mission work. Once you walk into the inner city of your hometown you can no longer close your eyes & pretend the pain doesn't exist. 

So here is my challenge... STOP LEAVING! Have the courage to STAY WHERE YOU ARE.. wherever that may be! You want America to be a country that glorifies God as a whole? Teach the children that live in YOUR country! They are our future. The harvest in the inner city of Tulsa is plentiful & the workers are few!!! GOD needs people to be missionaries in the United States too. You want a six year old little boy, growing up in the worst of circumstances known to American children, to have a relationship with God? Meet his physical needs as a gateway to his spiritual needs. I don't know where God is calling you to work, but I know that as Christians HE has called us to act on the behalf of HIS children.We are all asked to minister in different places. You may not be called to the inner city of Tulsa, but you are called somewhere. Search out HIS plan for your ministry & when HE gives you an answer act!... Even if it means simply walking across the street... ACT!

Acts 20:24
However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me--the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Miracle of the Moment

"I praise you Lord for I am fearfully & wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know this full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be"
- Psalm 139:14-16

Last night we had a Bible study with our youth group girls. We discussed Psalm 139. The question that was asked was, "Have you ever thought about the fact that God has a plan for every moment of your life?" It was a question that I needed to be asked myself. This idea that the King of Kings could possibly care about me enough to plan out the details of my life is so beyond my capability of understanding! 

As the discussion went on we talked about the trials in this life... death, divorce, anger, lust, poor decisions, etc. One of the girls in the group stated, "I don't understand how God can see every bad thought I've ever had & still love me." At this moment I was more thankful for God's miracles in small moments than ever before. Through one of the trials I encountered God clearly revealed to me that He is able to love me in spite of fault because He willing gave up His only son to be rejected, spat on, killed & forsaken, so that I might have a relationship with Him. When He looks at me He sees HIS son... when HE looks at her HE sees JESUS. In spite of everything that happens in this life, JESUS died & rose again! HE is coming back! And because of that we can have a relationship with GOD regardless of our faults, fears, failures, & shortcomings. In all of these things HE sees a creation that was fearfully & wonderfully made by HIS loving hands. He designed each of us with a plan & a purpose... every life is a miracle in the moment.

We continued to discuss the ways in which God speaks to us through HIS word, HIS creation, & those HE placed in our lives. I spoke of a time when my family prayed together that God would reveal Himself through HIS creation. As we concluded that prayer a cardinal landed in our front yard. GOD has chosen to reveal HIMSELF to our family in many ways, but the cardinal will always be one that stands out in my mind. Anytime I have prayed the prayer "Lord please show me that you are still here," I have seen a cardinal. This morning when I drove several of my girls home we saw a cardinal. I was amazed that GOD would choose to reveal HIMSELF through the thing that HE has used so many times to comfort me, not only to myself but also to girls in our youth group. It was an amazing experience! 

I am so grateful for the way GOD uses every moment to bring about HIS miracles. I am grateful for the whisper through the thunder, for the rainbows after the storms, for the love note HE wrote us through the Bible, for the body of the church, for the cardinal HE sends when I need HIS presence the most & for the individual way HE reveals HIMSELF to each of HIS children. As I pray for the Contact kids tonight, as well as Contact's staff, I pray that GOD continues to speak volumes to HIS children! I pray that HE opens our eyes to see the miracles in every moment...

"For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you & not to harm you, to give you hope & a future!"
-Jeremiah 29:11 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Catch & Release

I'm trying to blog at least once a week so that I can keep everyone some what updated on the Children's Ministry at Contact. Even if what I say is not the least bit intelligent or insightful, I promise it will be real :). There are several amazing things that are taking place in ministry right now, but what I want to address is a shift in perspective...

 I am beyond blessed! Not many children's ministers, missionaries, rent a christian, (whatever title you label me with) get to say that their family doesn't only support them, but does ministry alongside them. Everyone in my family is an active member at Contact. My parents, Grandma, Aunt & Uncle, brother, & cousins all attend. My Mom & I were discussing ministry this past weekend & what it should look like. She spoke of the book "Same kind of different as me." I will be entirely honest, I have not read the book... I have skimmed it & stolen quotes for illustrations, but I haven't really read it. Unfortunately this thing called college dictates what I have time to read. However I have 2 points based on a quote she shared below...

"I heard that when white folks go fishin they do somethin called 'catch and release.' 
Catch and release? I nodded solemnly, suddenly nervous and curious at the same time. 
'That really bothers me', Denver went on. 'I just can't figure it out. 'Cause when colored folks go fishin, we really proud of what we catch, and we take it and show it off to everybody that'll look. Then we eat what we other words, we use it to SUSTAIN us. So it really bothers me that white folks would go to all the trouble to catch a fish, when when they done caught it, just throw it back in the water.' 
He paused again, and the silence between us stretched a full minute. Then: 'Did you hear what I said?' 
I nodded, afraid to speak, afraid to offend. 
Denver looked away, searching the blue autumn sky, then locked onto me again with that drill-bit start. 'So, Mr. Ron, it occurred to me: If you is fishin for a friend you just gon' catch and release, then I ain't got no desire to be your friend.' 
I returned Denver's gaze with what I hoped was a receptive expression and hung on. 
Suddenly his eyes gentled and he spoke more softly than before: 'But if you is lookin for a REAL friend, then I'll be one. Forever." 
- Ron Hall, "Same kind of different as me" 

This past Sunday my Mom visited with another Mom. She had asked that we talk with her five year old daughter, who would soon bury her Grandma. This is a family we have known for the past nine years. We are absolutely in love with the beautiful children in this family! They are each precious gifts from HIM. Finishing up the conversation my mom stated, "You know we love you & we are here to do whatever you need." As my Mom walked away the other Mom said, "Hey Mrs. Shelly... I love you!" and hugged her. For those of you who do not know this family the story doesn't mean much to you, but for those of us who know them this story means everything! It has taken nine years for this woman to let down her guard and allow us to love her! This moment was monumental! 

Events like last Sunday don't happen unless we are intentional about our love for other people. Sometimes ministry becomes like the quote... "catch & release." I wonder where the other Mom would be if Contact had moved on eight years ago? Would there have ever been a moment where she received love from a christian & reciprocated it? I don't know! What I do know is that when ministry begins to look like "fishing" we are viewing people as projects. Projects are for jobs... ministry isn't a job... people aren't a job! Loving people every day is a gift! I have yet to "work" a day at Contact. That being said, for ministry to ever be effective in someone's life we cannot look at people like I did this book. I don't get to just skim over people & pick out the good parts. Real relationships involve real problems. Real ministry involves walking through real life with people, not skimming over them and deciding who has enough good parts and who doesn't. 

In children's worship I gave the kids stickers. We used the stickers to say 3 separate prayers. The first prayer was individual & they prayed about the marvelous things God would do through them throughout their lives. The second prayer they were asked to pray for someone in the room & give them a sticker. No one in my class prayed for just one person. I ran out of stickers because every child prayed for more than just one other friend! Lastly, we prayed as a class... that God would do things through our class, our part of the body. I asked them why I used stickers? One of my girls replied, "Cause you want us to know God loves all of us." Another replied, "Cause you love us." And another said, "Cause you want us to pray." All of their answers are 100% correct! I explained that furthermore our prayers stick with God. He doesn't forget what we ask of HIM. This idea of STICK is such a huge deal to me. I want to build relationships that STICK eternally. Catching & Releasing is not good enough! People aren't able to be thrown away. Every person I come in contact with is worth sticking with because JESUS died for them too. 

I haven't mastered this level of patience & humility and by no means am I stating that I have. However, just because I am not there yet does not mean that God's standard is anything else. When Jesus was asked what the greatest command is HE answered 2-fold, Love the Lord your God with all of your heart & love your neighbor as yourself. HIS expectations are no different today.  My prayer is that HE will teach us how to love the way HE loves; wholly & completely.

Psalm 72:18, "Praise be to the Lord God, for He alone does marvelous deeds. 

LORD, I ask that you continue to bless Contact. Be with YOUR children. Protect their hearts & guide them in the way they should go. Give us the tools to assist them in their walk with you. Above all help us to love you more completely so that our love for you will spill onto others. Help us to see others value because of who they are in YOU. Thank you for the cross. Thank you for the opportunity for a relationship with you. Help us to never forget what you did.
In Jesus Name,

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Moving Forward...

I recently read a friend's blog. She said that rather then making a New Years Resolution, she develops a theme for the year. Her theme for the year of 2010 was "Fearless." No, not Taylor Swift, fall hopelessly in love kind of fearless... really living without the fear of failure. This theme inspired her to go on many ventures during the year, including accepting a job at Disney World. All that being said, I have decided to develop a theme for this year, both for my ministry and for myself personally. My theme for the Children's Ministry for the year of 2011 is "Following in the footsteps of Jesus." The theme for myself personally for the year of 2011 is basically the same as the theme for my kids, "Moving Forward." 

Once I was hired at Contact my mind was flooded with ideas of what I wanted this next year to look like. There are so many concepts I want my kids to learn continually. I kept asking myself what does an effective program look like at Contact? What can I teach that is going to equip my kids not just today, but for the rest of their lives? As I spent time in prayer and attended meetings with other ministers I began to realize the one thing I want more than anything else for my Contact kids... I want them to look like Jesus... to follow in HIS footsteps. All of Christianity hangs on the calling of being like CHRIST... what is there that could be more important than learning to walk like the SAVIOR? 

Romans 12:2 "Do not conform to this world any longer but be TRANSFORMED by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is-- HIS good, pleasing, & perfect will.

Proverbs 22:6 "Train a child up in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart."

There is absolutely nothing more important to me than for my kids to know the heart of their Lord & Savior & through knowing HIS heart be transformed into HIS likeness. In order to train children though, I have to continue to grow. I have to move forward. I was told quite some time ago that you learn the most about GOD when you try to teach others about HIM; working at Contact has caused me to see the truth in this statement. It is impossible to effectively teach kids if I am not allowing God to teach me first. I want my kids to learn how to walk in the footsteps of Jesus? That is not going to happen by sitting and talking about it. I have to make a daily decision to show them what it looks like. I want them to value the word? I have to first value the word. I want them to love their neighbor? I have to love them, unconditionally! The list could go on forever. Teaching the word means living the word. 

That being said 2011 will be a year of "moving forward". I'm sure throughout the year that will look many different ways. Some days moving forward is going to mean working out issues in my own life, other days it's going to mean walking with someone else through their issues. Every day it will mean taking my Lord's hand & walking one step forward. All this is not to say that I am not going to fall on my face... I sit here today knowing that I will. I will mess up! I will lose my temper, I will say the wrong things, I will respond the wrong way, but GOD is bigger than my failures & therefore I don't have to be afraid of failing. I GET to show up & love HIS people. I GET to look past peoples shortcomings & look at their heart. Just like the Lord looked at David's heart, and looks at my heart, HE looks at the heart of  HIS people. With that we can all MOVE FORWARD... one step at a time, one day at a time, until we all reach the FINISH LINE! The ultimate goal is that we go to heaven together & I pray today that the Lord helps me view my own life, my ministry, & the lives of others with an eternal set of eyes.

My boyfriend's daddy wrote a song that describes best the vapor that this world is...

I don't have to cross the Jordan alone...

"Now we're just wondering pilgrims so lost & alone,
don't worry I'll see you at home
Soon we'll comfort each other at our eternal home,
don't worry I'll see you at home.
When all of life's troubles have gotten you down,
don't worry I'll see you at home,
Replace with a smile that sorrow & frown,
don't worry I'll see you at home.
Don't worry I'll see you at home,
When all of life's troubles have gone.
God will give us a place at his heavenly throne,
don't worry I'll see you at home.
The cares of this life will burden you down,
don't worry I'll see you at home.
Keep your eyes on the goal of your heavenly crown,
don't worry I'll see you at home."

Written By : Doug N. West

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


For those of you who do not know, I was recently hired as the Children's Minister at Contact on a part time basis until I finish school. I received my dream job! At eight years old I knew that ministry was what I wanted to do with my life, however I did not know the paths God would have me follow in order to get me where HE wanted me to be... at one point I thought I would end up in Honduras, then Houston, then the Dominican Republic. For whatever reason Contact wast the last place I saw myself ending up on a long-term basis.

Contact is such an amazing church! It truly is a church where you simply come as you are. I can't think of anywhere else I would rather be. Although I am beyond excited about this opportunity, it is overwhelming at times. All of the sudden I have this huge responsibility on my shoulders. I have been entrusted with children... entrusted to train, encourage, and help develop their faith... the most important thing they will ever have. When I think about this job I often feel so inadequate. I catch myself saying, "I don't know what I'm doing! I don't have the skills I need." 

Honestly, yesterday I began to realize how ignorant this attitude is. I am completely correct in believing that ministry is an extremely important job, however I am beyond incorrect when I begin to think I do not have the tools to be effective in the kingdom. GOD led me to Contact when I was eleven years old, HE led me back to Contact when I was eighteen. HE did not put me in a position to fail, rather HE placed me in a position to succeed. Rather than getting discouraged when ministry does not go according to plan I need to run towards my FATHER. HE will renew my strength, my passion, and my heart for ministry. Burning out is only possible when I allow it... when I operate from my own strength rather then GOD'S strength. The harder ministry gets the faster I am going to run. This does not mean that ministry is going to be easy or that I will always have the right answers or the right response to any given situation. What it does mean is that I serve a GOD who has the right answers and the right responses. As long as I allow HIM to work in me and through me, HE will be successful in spite of my lack of knowledge, skills, and experience. 

As I begin this new year, this new job, and a new chapter in my life my prayer is simply this... may my life glorify my FATHER in everything I do! May HIS spirit be apparent in my ministry. May my walk be stronger & may I always remember to rely on my FATHER rather then myself.

I am excited about what GOD will do at Contact in the year of 2011. I cannot wait to watch as HIS plans unfold. I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to work with such an amazing team. HE is always faithful & continuing to bless me every day. I would ask that you continue to keep us in your prayers. 

Psalms 138:3 "In the day that I called you answered me, you encouraged me with strength in my soul."