Midwinter Reflections

Midwinter Reflections

By Jim Sequeira, Lead Pastor, Cascade View Covenant Church

My wife Glenna really likes our Midwinter Conference even though she’s never been.  How do I know?  She told me, “Whenever you come back from Midwinter you’re a nicer person.”  I’m still trying to figure out the deeper meaning of my wife’s words.  For those of us who were able to attend this year, I hope you’ve been enjoying your new iPad they gave out.  Those who were unable to attend, I heard your etch-a-sketch is in the mail.  Okay, so we didn’t get iPads, but iGot blessed…again.  Midwinter has been an oasis of pastoral and spiritual renewal for me in the best of times, darkest of times, the hardest of times and some of the funnest times.

As part of my community service requirements I was invited by the Board of Ordered Ministry to interview some of our Covenant ‘ohana members for ordination and I was blessed and encouraged by the vision, passion and quality of the pastoral leadership; especially the giftedness of our young pastoral leaders.  Shout out to those who will be ordained/ordination transfer at the ECC Annual Meeting: Derek Hwang, Katey Hage, Debbie Montzingo, Bob Zurinsky and John Bangs!

I was blessed by the richness of our ECC ‘ohana’s diversity birthed by our Swedish immigrant  ancestors.  Chillin’ with my Hispanic, Asian-American, African-American, Indigenous and Caucasian-American brothers and sisters sharing stories, eating together and hearing from inspiring ethnic voices while attending the Racial Righteousness, Multi-Ethnic, Asian Covenant Pastors Association (“mahalo” to Gail Song Bantum for establishing a good foundation for CAPA) and Serve Globally gatherings.  I was blessed the ECC furthered the conversation and story of the marginalization of Indigenous Peoples a second year and the opportunity to co-lead the workshop and discussions with Lenore Three Stars (Oglala Lakota) and Curtis Ivanoff (Native Alaskan).  FYI-the ECC is planning to present a paper for the repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery at the Annual Meeting in June.

I was blessed again with the open, difficult and honest conversations with pastors and conference staff friends from various conferences and regions.  All speaking into my life bringing encouragement, joy and laughter.  I was blessed by the conversations with those in our own PacNWC; especially those in our regional multi-ethnic cohort who encouraged, corrected, schooled and taught me much.  I’m grateful to be their “Uncle Jim.”  And there are those who weren’t in attendance whom I missed as well.

There are just too many blessings and people to list here.  So, I guess when someone is this blessed there is no other option than to be “a nicer person.”  I really do need to find out what Glenna meant.

The Bright Scholars Project

The Bright Scholars Project

By Pastor Derek Hwang, Lead Pastor, Disciple Community Church

It’s amazing the open doors God can provide when you place yourself available to God’s call in the Great Commission. My name is Derek Hwang and I’m the lead pastor of Disciple Community church. Six years ago, God called my wife and I along with 12 core members to plant a church called Disciple Community Church. That year, we partnered with the ECC and have together strived to live out God’s call for this church plant in Bellevue, Wa. Five years ago, our church was given the opportunity to see what God was doing in the lives of people in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. We went on a Vision trip with a missionary who has spent almost his entire life doing God’s work in Cambodia and Vietnam. He introduced us to a ministry in Phnom Penh called Bright Scholars. Bright Scholars is a ministry led by two local Cambodian women named Kim and Sina. They are a non-government-organization that desires to serve the poor. For the last 8 years, they have been finding financial donors to support local children who have parents with HIV/Aids. Most of the children’s parents have already passed away. In Cambodia, people with HIV/Aids are shunned. They are outcasts of the society. No one will do business with them. In many cases, families will no longer associate themselves with those who have HIV/Aids. So, for these families who have HIV/Aids in their homes, they live condemned, separated lives in poverty. They live in extreme difficult conditions where a family earning a total of $1-$3 per day is not out of the ordinary. Almost every family lives in make-shift shacks built over sewage. Most if not all of these families are malnourished and do not have finances to seek medical help. The children do not have the finances to get an education. These families are the bottom 5% of the poor living in Phnom Penh. Ultimately, these children grow up without any hope of a future. For $350 per year, less than $1 a day, we can sponsor a child through Bright Scholars and send them to school. This donation will support the students with a full year of education along with some school materials.

 

Currently there are about 65 students who are sponsored through Bright Scholars. Disciple Community Church, along with three other churches, have committed to sponsor these children and give them what they are most lacking, hope. In the last 5 years, we have not only supported students financially, we have taken trips every year trying to build relationships with the students and their families. Every year, we have taken teams to share the testimony of Jesus Christ along with needed school materials. We have taken about 20 laptops teaching students how to use the computer so that they do not fall behind in school. Over the 5 years, we have done over 50 home visitations trying to understand what their families go through and to build relationships with them. We have spent time praying for them, crying with them, and rejoicing God’s work in them. What we have been so encouraged by is what Kim and Sina have been sharing with these families going through such a difficult time. “When your own people do not love you or accept you, these Christian’s half way around the world want you to know that they love you and accept you. Have hope!” The great thing about Bright Scholars is that we can meet the students and share a meal with them in their homes and build relationships with them. Our relationship goes beyond the picture we put up on our refrigerator. We can meet them face to face and give them a loving embrace.

 

Recently, we have found out that Bright Scholar’s funding has run out. Their support churches have found it difficult to continue supporting the finances of their work. Because of that, God has opened doors and given Disciple Community Church an opportunity to step in and run operations for Bright Scholars. We are excited at the possibility of continuing to support the children of Bright Scholars and further their work to meet the needs of so many more students in desperate need in Phnom Penh. We want to build Bright Scholars to be a ministry that, not only supports the financial means for hurting children to have an education and a future in this world, but build relationships and share Jesus with them so that they can see and experience the grace, hope, and love of Jesus Christ and have an eternal future in God’s Kingdom. Please pray for our partnership with Kim and Sina and Bright Scholars and the work of the whole mission of the church in Phnom Penh.  If you would like to know more about Bright Scholars and get involved in sponsoring the Bright Scholars project or sponsoring students through Bright Scholars, you can always go to links below.

https://bright-scholars-45.webself.net/home

https://www.facebook.com/Bright-Scholars-1466457283662239/

“The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” 2 Corinthians 9:6-8 (ESV)

May the Peace of Jesus Christ flow through you!

Pastor Derek Hwang

Disciple Community Church

Derekhwang@disciple-cc.org

From the Superintendent for February 2018

From the Superintendent for February 2018

By Greg Yee, Superintendent, PacNWC

A new chapter begins in the Covenant Church with the announcement of our presidential nominee John Wenrich this week.  Please see the official announcement (here).  But the most important detail was not noted!  What John is most famous and appreciated for is hiring our very own Erik Cave almost 20 years ago when he was at First Portland!  We also thank our own Gail Ohta (conference chair) and Dwain Tissell (Executive Board) who were part of the 27-member Presidential Search Committee.  They did a lot of overtime and we are grateful. And thank you all for praying over the entire process.

As we lean into this transition, we recognize that a sense of disorientation often sets in.  I know some of us felt it immediately.  There were different opinions being shared, concerns expressed, and outstanding questions standing over the unknown.  But what also comes with transitions are opportunities to take a fresh look at who we are.  How has God shaped us to this point?  What has been our current missional trajectory where the Spirit has been leading us?  I am particularly grateful for the senior leadership of the Covenant that consists of the Covenant Office Leadership Team (COLT) and the Council of Superintendents (COS).  It has been a personal joy and blessing to work alongside these wise and gifted people.  I love how we’ve lived into our mosaic vision expressed in the team’s make up.  Within the core members, half of us are women and people of color – 10 of the 20.  John inherits a solid team.  So far, we have much to learn still – that’s clear.  It also teaches us that God’s hand has been upon us and he gives us a very special gift in this family we call the Covenant.

My spirit is heavy as we stand at this juncture of transition – this holy point in time.  For me, it is a time of recommitment.  Our vision is to be a mosaic of churches working interdependently together to transform lives and communities.  We live this out together as 78 churches through our three mission priorities: starting new churches, strengthening churches, and supporting our pastors.  I want to keep doing that.  I believe God is still calling us to keep doing that.  I urge us to draw deep from the well of our lives in Christ and allow this time of transition to draw us closer and push us forward.  Transitions teach us a lot.  Let us remain prayerfully focused on the things God has already been calling us to.

I hear God’s voice through Paul to us as he spoke them to the church in Philippi, …being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus…

Pray for the church and now for John and Julie Wenrich.  Make plans to send delegates to the annual meeting in Minneapolis.  Lord what will you have for us here in the PacNWC?  Here we are, Lord…here we are…

MUD 2018 Reflections

MUD 2018 Reflections

We had a fantastic MUD High School Retreat at Cascades Camp January 12-14.  Matthew Humphreys and Laura Rudeen were our Co-Coordinators.  Here are their reflections on the event:

Matthew Humphreys:

200 high school students and 60 youth leaders  spent this past weekend at Cascades Camp for MUD 2018: ROOTS. There was an expectation set after our speaker, Steve Wong from University Covenant Church in Davis, California, spoke the first night that God would speak. It was a great start to camp to see circles of youth groups asking and have students sharing what they were hearing God say during our first session. We recognized that the things that were shared were not necessarily the things that anyone had actually said from up front, because God sometimes speaks in the pauses and prompts just as much as the literal words said.

It was a full weekend of Olympic-themed games and competitions; elective activities; seminars; prayer stations; worship; archery tag; glow in the dark dodgeball; and invitations. Each session we were invited into worship by high school students. We were invited throughout the weekend to listen to and respond to key challenges from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail. Sunday students were invited to respond to Jesus as Lord with many coming forward to mark their commitment to Jesus. Other students responded to the invitation to start following Jesus for the first time. Our final invitation that brought students back to the circles they started in as churches shared a time of communion together.
Thank you for your prayers ahead of and during MUD. Please join us in praying that the seeds that were planted at MUD would continue to grow in the lives of all who came.

Laura Rudeen:

MUD 2018 was incredible. Steve brought the students words to challenge and guide us. The truth is, God not only works through our circumstances to bring His kingdom more fully on earth, but God also works BECAUSE of our circumstances to do the same. It filled my heart to see high schoolers realize they matter, their stories are important, and God has a unique part for them to play in His kingdom mission. I am still hoping and praying that students will continue to be transformed by what God did at MUD. May the Lord give us eyes to see all of our neighbors as beloved brothers and sisters in the mission of Christ, not despite our different backgrounds, but because of them.

Thank you to Erik and Zach for being fun upfront presences, to Matt for gracefully and profoundly leading us through Letter From A Birmingham Jail, to Steve for his excellent messages, to Carl and the NPU band for leading us in worship, to Jessica and the camp staff for holding the weekend together, to Carla for her work on the prayer stations, and to the leaders who make this possible.

 

[Click Here] for more pictures from MUD

 

Cultivating Faithfulness Clergy Cohort

Cultivating Faithfulness Clergy Cohort

By Dawn Taloyo, Director of Pastoral and Congregational Health, PacNWC

“Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.” (NASB)

The first Pacific Northwest Conference “Cultivating Faithfulness Clergy Cohort” (CFCC) began in late September with a retreat at Cascades Camp. We were blessed with sun and a camp all to ourselves. The quiet space was not empty space, however! We were enriched with God’s Word, an inspiring article by Henri Nouwen, great conversation as we learned one another’s stories, and generous time to connect with God.

The purpose of the CFCC is to provide restful and listening spaces among colleagues for the purpose of sustaining and renewing one’s call to Christ and devotion to ministry. Guided readings, monthly spiritual practices, and quarterly retreats, assist us in our listening.  I have heard over and over how this came at just the right time for these colleagues, now friends.  Our monthly online video calls keep us connected as we share about life and the fruit of our practices, and then pray for one another.

I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to pilot this cohort, as I learn and adapt from my experience with the Fuller Formation Groups. In my experience, sharing life with others who “get it,” as well as purposefully creating space for practices and retreats that help me abide in Christ, have been essential in remembering Whose I am and why I do what I do. I am grateful for grants from the Sustaining Pastoral Excellence fund, as well as our PacNWC Ministerial Association, that has made this opportunity available and affordable.

Lessons From A Church In Zombie Land

Lessons From A Church In Zombie Land

By Rob Bryceson, Lead Pastor, The Gathering House, Spokane, WA

Tonia and I came to Spokane in the summer of 2008. By November we found ourselves working in a dying, downtown church surrounded by homeless people, addicts, mentally ill, and those suffering under generational poverty. Within a year we opened our doors to the neighborhood inviting them to come in. That’s when the adventure really began.

This is our story – Lessons From A Church In Zombie Land. If you read this book, it will make you will laugh, you will get angry, you will be moved to sadness, and you might rethink your own church experiences. I’ve put the opening page below as a sample.

If you’re interested I would greatly appreciate if you would get a copy, leave a review on the site, and help spread the word.

Lessons From A Church In Zombie Land is the true story of how one pastor, transplanted from an affluent area of California through a shocking twist of events, was found serving in a downtown church among the homeless, addicted, broken and afflicted.

These accounts are his observations from the underside of civilization. This volume is the story of unlearning preconceived notions about what church should be and what working among those on the lowest rung of society is actually like, all the while learning to navigate the swamps of poverty culture.

These stories are often hilarious, sometimes poignant, frequently angering, but always thought-provoking. Rob Bryceson takes us on an intrepid ride of faith and adventure, with several miraculous twists and turns, as he shares the story of one downtown church coming alive from among the dead.

 

[Click Here] to buy the book, Lessons From a Church In Zombie Land

[Click Here] for more information on Street Wise Ministry

[Click Here] for more information on The Gathering House

 

 

Newport Covenant – A Time of Transition

Newport Covenant – A Time of Transition

By Barbara Moffat, Chair, Newport Covenant Church

It is a situation no church ever desires:  the resignation of a Lead Pastor.  Yet it is that singular situation that was instrumental in our learning to be completely reliant upon God’s leading.  We have learned that when God moves, sometimes He moves boldly, and all you can do is hang on for the ride.  We have also learned that sometimes God’s direction is found only through waiting and praying.  The last year and a half has been a time of transition for Newport Covenant – and He has been with us every step of the way.

There was little warning that our pastor would resign; however, over a very short period of time, things were brought to light that had to be addressed.  We turned to both the PacNWC and the ECC Denomination for help.  They have walked alongside us and been available for the millions of questions that came along with ‘what do we do now’?  The resources that were available to us were amazing.  We didn’t need to recreate anything – all we had to do was ask and rely on the help that was right there.  In short order, we hired an interim lead pastor, formed a search committee, and began working ‘the process’. We created a church profile (and video!), advertised on CovConnect, shortlisted candidates, performed screening interviews, brought in candidates for formal interviews, held a candidating weekend, and offered a call.  And then we waited.

In the meantime, as a church we were learning to acknowledge, confront and address many years of wrongdoing and hurtful actions.  Our interim lead pastor, Rick Mylander, was instrumental in reaching out to as many people as possible to help both them, and us as a church, begin to transition into a new way of living and relating to each other.  This culminated in a service of Reconciliation and Hope which included an apology read by the Church Chair and Vice Chair naming and owning each and every painful act we could remember.  The service took us through a process of Understanding Reconciliation, Understanding Forgiveness, and Understanding Peace, and included a responsive confession and a time where people could come forward to one of three stations in the sanctuary to name their individual hurt and receive pastoral anointing and prayer.  The service was not meant to ignore or minimize continued pain, but to be a point from which each individual could move forward in their healing process.

One of the greatest things we have learned during this time of transition is to wait upon the Lord. Although we were confident in knowing who God intended to have for our next Lead Pastor, it was not immediately evident to our candidate!  Pastor David Beck was quite content with his current Call in Sacramento, CA, and was not looking for a new placement.  In many ways, this new Call is downright inconvenient.  But, he was open to being where God wanted him:  one step at a time, listening, praying, and being willing, seeking guidance, fasting, more prayer, and finally, embracing the Call.

Excitement is now building as we look toward Pastor David beginning at Newport on January 2, 2018 (with his first Sunday and a service of installation on January 7th).  A new year, a new pastor, a new ministry, a fresh start!  Even during a short one-month sabbatical in December, Pastor David has already started the process of reaching out and beginning to integrate himself into our lives and ministry.  Although we know that our true time of transition is about to begin, we will rely upon the lessons we have learned to-date about trusting Him and allowing God to direct our steps.

Are we ready for our new pastor?  Are we ready to lay down our own wants and desires and allow Him to continue leading us?  Are we ready to continue the process of being conformed into His image?  God willing, yes, because in the end, it must always – and only – be about Him.

“I wait for the Lord, my soul does wait, and in His word do I hope.” (Ps 130:5)

From the Superintendent for January 2018

From the Superintendent for January 2018

By Greg Yee, Superintendent, PacNWC

Happy 2018!  I trust that you had a wonderful Christmas.  I’ve heard and seen so many good reports from around the conference including neighbors served, needs being met, people turning their lives over to Jesus, churches coming together, beautiful music being savored, kids looking heart-meltingly cute, multi-lingual services shared…so much!  I pray that this Christmas spirit – the reality of God With Us – would continue with great Holy Spirit momentum into the new year.

For me, I’m excited about ministry development and church planting.  I am writing this while attending the Chinese Mission Conference in Ontario, CA.  It’s been a fantastic way to end 2017.  I’m attending with the single purpose of finding ministry partners and/or church planters to reach the Chinese-speaking in the PacNW.  I know that many of our churches are in neighborhoods that have seen sizable Chinese growth.  I long for us to be part of God’s action among the Chinese (and also East Indian!).  I want to remind us that we are “doubling down” on ministry development/church planting in general this year with the ongoing work of our coaches (Russ Blake, Mark Meredith, Rob Fairbanks), contracted work with Esau Del Arca to lead Latino ministry growth, and the start of our new Conference Coach, Peter Sung, who will oversee planting.  I’m really excited! I can’t wait to see what God will show us!  I long for more people to be reached and for all of our communities to be transformed through new ministries in your churches and with new plants.  But I know nothing will happen without us praying and fasting.  PacNWC, please join me in regularly doing so.  In addition to other times and ways you might pray and fast, I want to invite you to join me in calendering something specific.  I will set my phone alarm to 9:38PM as a reminder to pray Matthew 9:38 (Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the Harvest…).  I will also calendar a weekly fast through March and then reassess.  Let’s keep it real, Mission Friends.  New Years blessings to you, yours, and your church.  May Jesus continue to be glorified.  Happy New Years!

Greg Yee

 

From the Superintendent

By Greg Yee, Superintendent, PacNWC

As we begin a new Christian Year with the first week of Advent this Sunday, I find myself reflecting on the beautiful and theologically vital passage Philippians 2:5-8.  As we enter this time of the year when we remember in anticipation the coming of our Savior, we are given this description of Jesus knowing his place of power and privilege.  Even though he had this, deserved it, it was not his focus to maintain it.  Rather, he let go of his control and position and took on human flesh.  He did this to make things right so that all could flourish and have new life.  In the beginning of this passage it says, “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.”  How is your mindset?  I’m feeling this deeply as we just came off our 10th Journey to Mosaic.  How do I understand my racial privilege and power and what must I do to have Christ’s heart-set when it comes to learning and responding to race realities?  I’m feeling this deeply as we are confronted with the shocking and steady flow of names coming forward around sexual assault/harassment.  How do I understand how misogynistic our culture and subcultures are and how do I have the focus and attitude of Christ as a male? I once read this quote, “One of the privileges of the great is to witness catastrophes from a terrace.”  I believe there is much for each of us to consider as we, even today, expectantly wait for Jesus’ coming.  May we have the mindset of the Prince of Peace and not sit on our terraces, but enter our worlds full of catastrophes.  We are people of contentment & restlessness, peace & frustration, and love & anger.  May you begin Advent with the mindset of the Prince of Peace & our Conquering King.  Come, o come, Emmanuel…

Reflections on Journey to Mosaic

By Matt Dyment

Three weeks ago, I had a few dreams come true. Ever since seminary, and participating in the Sankofa experience, I have longed to take a similar journey with fellow Christians from a mosaic of races and ethnicities. Alongside this dream I continually strive to take students on transformational adventures – adventures where what is happening right in front of them is so good, so beautiful they forget about their phones, studies, and the urgent demands of life and open their eyes to the Kingdom of God space they live within.

J2M brought these dreams together. I joined four undergraduate students from George Fox University for the four-day, non-stop, you-better-learn-to-drink-while-standing-under-a-raging-waterfall journey.  It was filled with deep conversations connected with a partner from another race/ethnicity while taking in documentaries and movies while we drive to meaningful, painful, and hopeful places.  The dialogue of justice is constant and the pursuit of racial reconciliation isn’t an add on but on center stage.

J2M doesn’t offer easy answers, and it doesn’t give the opportunity to walk away from the table. Thanks to our leaders and the grace of God, while around this table of truth and pain, personal stories were shared in ways bringing freedom. One of the female Hispanic students from Fox pulled me aside after the last night and said, “That was the first time I knew I could share my whole story, my whole opinion and not have to worry I was going to be judged. It was so wonderful. I knew sharing my story would only bring me closer to those on the trip. My story usually creates distance from others when I tell it.”

Personally, J2M deepened my heart for the work of justice in our local community, state, country, and world. It is hard, exhausting and long work, but it is where we are called to be in our time of history. We from Fox are so thankful to have been able to join J2M on it’s 10th anniversary. I am so thankful to be part of a regional conference in the ECC which prioritizes the work of racial reconciliation and continued learning. Don’t wait to sign up for the next trip if you are interested. Get your name on the list now!