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

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

 

 

Will There Be Churches?

By Peter Sung, Director of Church Planting, PacNWC/Lead Pastor, Evergreen Covenant Church

Before we immigrated when I was eight, growing up in South Korea meant immersion in the way of life that was the Presbyterian church, and that meant conforming to fit in. Now I can see that for what much of it was: bad theology, default culture, and really, just human nature.

1981 was the start of a new life in America but the continuation of the same social and spiritual environment: put on the mask and fit in. But a new imperative showed up in the immigrant church: Be good and succeed. This too was human nature coursing through the veins of bad theology and an even more oppressive cultural mandate. Stiff burgundy and white envelopes with names and dollar amounts were read out loud each week in each of the three Sunday services. These unashamedly public tithes and offerings were the perfect emblem that proved goodness and success.

Repulsed, and feeling spiritually and culturally homeless, I decided 11th grade was old enough to leave the nest and go find… something different. With vague ideals and words like acceptance (not performance), belonging (not fitting in), grace (not merit), and true community (not masked ones) swirling around my head, I went off in search of a better land and began my second immigration journey, this time a chosen one.

I found an inner city church with a white pastor, a woman worship leader, and a congregation that was culturally mixed. I had few categories but I felt like I was getting closer to home and a seed was planted. In college, I didn’t just join InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, but I deliberately rejected many others that I felt were gathering for reasons other than the Gospel. Inspired by a sense of mission to propagate a new kind of church, I abandoned my mother’s call on my life to become a medical doctor, switched my major, and applied to seminary. With my acceptance letter to Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in hand, one week after graduation from college, I planted my first church. Then a second. Then a third. Then a fourth. Then a fifth. Then I met the Covenant, fell in love and joined, and the 90’s were over.

This whole time, underneath the surface, the cultural ground was shifting and presumptions were being challenged. The internet, and the technology to access it, began to fill the earth just like the waters cover the sea. Postmodernity became less of a talking point and less threatening to the church relative to the opt-in culture that was the child of individualism, consumerism, and technology. How people related to information, to authority, to people, places, and things – shifted. Coming to church, committing to church, church being a serious contender in culture and in calendars – shifted.

Lots of fails. Lots of studies. Lots of books. Lots of consulting groups later, we’re beginning to see the church doing what it has always done – adapt, and eventually thrive, again. But many churches and leaders are getting lost in the shuffle. It’s all just happening so fast and furiously. At times like this, we are able to appreciate the difference between resilient and strong. Strong is like the pyramids – powerful but now, mostly gone. Resilient is like a forest – easily destroyed but able to spring back to life. Resilient endures, adapts, and finds a way to thrive again. Strong cracks, wears down, and goes away.

Beginning with my own spiritual journey, then church planting, then directing church planting, and now engaged in the work of church turnaround, my respect for the church has been growing again, not because it’s perfect or strong but because it’s resilient. It’s resilient because it’s alive. Buildings and programs and strategies and cultures – these all have their place in life but are not life. The end purpose is life and life will find a way as God guides his Church through time and space.

If I stop anchoring in the past and show up here and now with Christ’s Gospel in heart and hand, the opportunities to engage the present day, as it is and not as I think it should be, abound. Is today’s missional challenge for you? No, the gates of hades will not prevail against the Body of Christ.

This is my sense of call as I continue the work of church turnaround locally and partner with the Conference more broadly: to competently engage culture and society with light and salt, sweat and tears, and the enduring blood of Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit who is moving in our world more than we can think or imagine.

Let’s end with a benediction for all of us, for all generations before and yet to come:

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

Stories from Renew Covenant’s Relaunch in Lynnwood, WA

Stories from Renew Covenant’s Relaunch in Lynnwood, WA

By Dave Sim, Lead Pastor of Renew Covenant Church

5am Thursday.  Our crew is starting the coffee up and setting up shop in the front of our church.  At around 6am commuters begin parking in the church lot, a designated park-n-ride through Community Transit.  Renew Covenant Church is now located in North Lynnwood on the very busy intersection of 164th ST SW and Manor Way.  This is the former meeting place of Martha Lake Community Covenant Church which closed its doors this past Summer after 70 years of ministry.  A young man, who had come by a few weeks earlier, stops by the coffee stand saying, “I was hoping you guys would be here!”  After several minutes of conversation he says to our crew, “I think I want to check out your church.”

Actually, the music wasn’t too loud for me . . . it was wonderful actually.”  This from a young woman in her 60’s, a member of the former Martha Lake church.  Eighteen or so former Martha Lakers returned to the sanctuary to join Renew for our Grand Opening worship and building dedication.  We had 75 plus adults and children at this first service.  More beautifully our gathering was the Creator’s mosaic of different generations, of diverse socio-economic and racial-cultural backgrounds, and of souls journeying on such a variety of vectors and relative position to the church and Jesus.  “And thank you pastor for bringing the word!  It was so good and so refreshing.”  I just wanted to hug this lady as I thought to myself, “Yes, this is all so refreshing!  God is doing something new!”

     A woman in a nice business suit shakes my hand and introduces herself.  I recognize her from our Grand opening worship service.  “I’m here to meet with Christy about the community garden.”  Christy is heading up Renew’s community garden ministry.  Renew has inherited from Martha Lake 14 raised garden plots that we are now offering to our neighbors to tend and plant.  We are hoping to intersect a robust theology of creation care, our missional intentions to reach neighbors with the Gospel, as well as a strong desire to foster meaningful community in a culture of isolation, all through this garden.  I leave Christy and Sarah to their meeting.  An hour later, Christy emails our leadership team clearly excited.  She says, “I had such a great meeting with Sarah.  She wants to help me with the community garden!  And she wants to help serve park-n-ride coffee!  And did I say she was asking me if we had small groups?”

These three stories are snapshots that demonstrate why Renew is so excited to be re-launching in Lynnwood and stewarding this boon opportunity towards the embodiment of our vision and mission.  The Renew dream is for people in North Lynnwood and beyond to experience the grace and mercy of God and to be transformed as images of God. We believe we are given to in order to give away, and so we will endeavor to love and serve our neighbors in tangible ways.  At Renew we are renewed by God for the renewal of our neighborhood.  Please join us in celebrating what God has already been doing and revealing to us!