Whether They Hear or Refuse to Hear…

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In Ezekial 2, God tells Ezekial that he will be a prophet to the people of Israel. Israel at this time was a very rebellious people and had long invoked the justice of the Lord. A prophet was one who was to be the mouthpiece of the Lord, relaying His messages to the people. This was what God was calling Ezekial to be. Now the Lord knew of the stubbornness of Israel’s heart and knew that His message through Ezekial was to be met with closed ears and hard hearts. Therefore, it comes to reason that God spoke to Ezekial to proclaim His message “whether they hear or refuse to hear.”

Flash forward a few thousand years and here we are in the 7th week of this year’s LOV summer camp. Numerous Bible studies have elapsed, many of which have seemingly been met with deaf ears. Honestly, I cannot know the work that God is doing in the hearts of the older boys who sit in my classroom, but I know the appearances of what is being interpreted by them, and that seems to be minimal. This has begun to be frustrating from the preparation of Bible studies to the presentation of Bible studies. These Bible studies honestly seem vain half the time as these boys distract and are distracted by others in the midst of Bible studies.

In the midst of this adversity, what keeps me going? What keeps my eyes on God as what He has called me to do is seemingly ignored by the people I am called to? The importance of the Gospel as a whole is the first and foremost factor. The Gospel is the only thing that can penetrate the hearts of those who hear this Word proclaimed. The second factor is the fact that God has given me the opportunity to speak His Truth, whether they hear or refuse to hear.

God is sovereign in salvation, and not a thing I can say can prick the hearts of the kids who hear this truth proclaimed. Only God can initiate and carry out the salvation and sanctification of those who would choose to follow Him. My only job is to speak the truth of the Gospel with my whole being as I rest in the goodness of the Gospel I proclaim. Whether they hear or refuse to hear is not up to me. Of course I want them to hear and receive the Gospel message with open arms, but I cannot force a reaction. Only the Holy Spirit can draw these kids into salvation.

Whether they hear or refuse to hear (Ezekial 2:5), I must proclaim the truth of the gospel. “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:16).

– Thomas

A Summer of Firsts

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This summer has been a summer of firsts for me. The first time I’ve ever been anywhere for longer than a week, first time I’ve lived anywhere other than Tampa, Florida, first time I’ve taught a music/choir class, and the first time that I’ve ever truly been out of my comfort zone. And even though I’m out of my comfort zone, I feel at peace, and like this is exactly where I’m supposed to be; learning more about Him every day.

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Back in January, I was in Atlanta for the Passion conference and ended up going to one of the North Point Community Church campuses. It was the first sermon of the New Year, and Andy Stanley was talking about resolutions. His main point was a simple question; he asked “what breaks your heart?” I remember sitting there and all of a sudden I couldn’t get Light of the Village out of my head. I left that day and still couldn’t shake the feeling that LOV was my answer to that question. The children that we serve here at Light of the Village deserve more than what life has given them. But when you interact with them on a day-to-day basis you wouldn’t think that their lives are missing anything. Yes, they have struggles. It’s true, they may not always have the best attitudes. And yes, they come from broken homes. But they also love hard and greet you with the most beautiful smiles every morning.

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I’ve learned so much from our kids this summer. They’ve taught me that I can go and do what God calls me to. That I’m loved by Him. That God is present and active in the darkest of places. That my relationships with my family and friends are precious. And that I should be strong and courageous, because the Lord is with me wherever I go. And I hope that they’ve learned this from me as well. The children that I’ve met and gotten to know this summer will always be in my heart. Each of them for more than one reason. And I can’t imagine what it is going to be like to have to say goodbye to them all, especially my older girls. This has truly been the most rewarding summer and I’m so grateful that I got to come alongside a ministry that I hold so near to my heart.

-Erica

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” James 1:2 & 3

Truth in the Balloons

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This summer is spinning by in a swirl of assembly skits, cool pops and glittery paint projects. I’d like it to spin a little slower.

I love being the Kinder’s intern. Their little hands, big eyes, wide smiles and quick feet (how do they move so fast??) are ever challenging, unpredictable, and delightful. The tinies stole my heart day one. See for yourself:

See? Your heart is melting too. Now that you’ve met Camp Faith’s smallest crew, be prepared to simply adore them (if you don’t already).

Teaching Bible study to small children is ah, shall we say…TOUGH. Remember those sweet hands, eyes, smiles and feet I mentioned? They are constantly on the move. To accommodate the energetic little chickadees, time teaching the Word must involve fun and engaging activities to keep their short attention spans.

One such game came after a lesson on the Armor of God. God gives us special pieces of armor to protect us. We put on this armor by praying and listening to the Holy Spirit. We use the armor of God, as his truth to protect us from the lies of the enemy. You and I know this- it is infinitely harder for 4 and 5 year olds to understand. So, Camp Faith’s insightful director and my dear friend, Miss Anna, found a game to illustrate this point. The idea is to write lies on balloons and put the truth inside. I wrote lies like “I don’t matter” and the truth on a slip of paper inside, “Children are a gift from God.” (Psalm 127:3) Kids got to “pop” the lies with the truth. Keep in mind- I used truth from scripture and was so, so careful to talk about finding the truth in the Bible each time we popped a balloon. My objective in the lesson became helping the children understand where Truth is found.

We popped 7 “lies” to find the truth. At the end of the lesson, I asked my sweet Kinders where we could find God’s truth.

“IN THE BALLOONS!”

Dear Reader, I know you are probably laughing right now, but in that moment, my hand looked like it would be permanently stuck to my forehead.

Truthfully, sometimes lessons like this are discouraging. I want to see results, see the Kingdom built before my eyes. Ushering Heaven to Earth is definitely more than a little bumpy, but I cling to this truth: God is at work.

God is at work in more ways than I can see. He is working all things together for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).

Sarah Bessey writes about being part of that work in Jesus Feminist:

“But when Christ begins a work, he finishes it. His heart is for his sons and daughters, for their freedom, and he welcomes them home into the family; we are part of that holy work. And if we are called to the hard, unsexy work of setting things right slowly with little visible success, we can remain joyful in perseverance.”

I pray for joy in perseverance, to be faithful even when I can’t see the whole picture.

Let me leave you with a little happy from a most precious kinder, Isaiah. He spoke this prayer during Bible study.

“Jesus, I know you love us. You protect us and keep us safe like a shield. I love you. Amen.”

Maybe there are little successes after all.

– Sarah Kate

Out of the Whirlwind

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Alex being tackle hugged by the Littles at Camp Hope!

God spoke into the chaos of the universe to bring forth life and order into existence. Chaos is not in the characteristics of God. In the beginning the Earth was without form and void as Genesis 1:2 teaches us. Darkness was the only thing in the midst of the universe.“The spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” God was in the darkness so that He might speak and bring forth life and order into this grand world that we know. Despite the knowledge that we have of this, our lives are still messy and chaotic. Chaos after creation is a byproduct of the fall of man. Chaos is all that we grow up experiencing in this life. Divorce, depression, rejection, and death are all just different ways that life reveals to everyone that this world is not ordered. Something inside of us screams knowing that this isn’t how it should be. Dietrich Bonhoeffer loosely states that death reveals to us that life is not as it should be.

After 4 weeks of camp I’ve began to pray for the chaos that has developed inside of my class room. At first I was blown away by the amount of disorder that these kids brought with them in the classroom. When I say disorder, I do not mean to say trouble per se. Mostly they are just 6 and 7 year old kids who desire to just run and play as much as they can. It slowly began to consume them to the point that they started to ignore me and other adults. They wanted to play and they would ignore us if it meant they could continue to have fun. At first I began to slowly be discouraged by how chaotic they were and how little they would listen. I want to share with them the Gospel of Christ, yet they merely want to run around playing tag, getting upset with everyone, desiring to punch the kid that said your hair looked stupid, or simply do whatever they want when they want.

One day I began to pray that God would just help me to know the right way to deal with the kids and to keep them orderly. In the moment, God showed me the reality that their entire life is living in a life that is full of uncertainty and chaos. The few hours that I have those kids are the few hours that they have the ability to forget about the lives in which they live. I started praying that the kids would be a chaos in my life so that they could escape the chaos of their lives for just a few hours. The amount of energy that I lose, the frustration I feel at times, and the tears that start to come up as I hear a kid tell me they never want to come back because I am mean is completely worth if for just those few hours I can intercept their chaotic life and simply let them be kids while I teach and show them the love of God. The Lord has changed my perspective of the kids since this prayer began to be a part of my life. I get the chance to interrupt their lives and be an example of the Gospel of Christ.

This all has reminded me of Job who was a man who was stricken of serious illness, stripped of all possessions, and grieved over the loss of his entire family. This story of the Bible is taught often since its the story that depicts a great man of God dealing with the problem of evil and suffering. It really teaches about all of our lives and the grief and misery that we see all around us. What is often spoken of so little is how God responds to Job’s questions in the story. Job 38:1 says, “Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind.” As Job is pulling out these questions from the deepest reaches of his heart, and God is found in the midst of this storm of his life. God is not found to be far off in the eternal realms of Heaven removed from Job’s predicament. God spoke out of the whirlwind. God was in the midst of Job’s misery and intercepting it.

Fast forward to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus was God in human flesh. This moment in history is marked by the fact that God decided to finally descend into our messy life to offer redemption for us out of this world. Jesus paid the price for us as we’ve been taught through scripture.

The nature of the Gospel is the mere fact that God entered our messy, chaotic world to redeem, save, and offer hope out of our situation. God is in the business of entering the depths of chaos, misery, and death to merely us offer a way out. He is in the business of saving people from that. This is why God is never shocked by the horrors of this world. He is in the midst of it all breathing life and creating new life through the ultimate work of Jesus Christ.

Now to tie this all back to the kids. I’ve learned that I have the capacity to be a part of the chaos that these kids live in to simply show them hope that there is something greater than the life they know. I may not have the capacity to change their situations, but I can show them the God who is in the business of creating new life. One girl in my class often tells me how she wants to play because, “I never get to play when I go home.” How depressing is it that a child lacks the ability to simply be a kid because of their family situation, community problems, or whatever else is their to get in the way. This is why I pray to be a part of the chaos that they live in because God is the one he speaks in the middle of it all to bring about a new creation.

I want to intercept them in the middle of their worries and woes just like Christ constantly interjects in the midst of my world to merely speak life in a decaying, dying world. This is the heart of God. This is the hope of God. This is what these kids need.

– Alex

Adjusting My Focus and Increasing My Faith

Hi, my name is Hien. This is my second summer to work Summer Bible Camp at Light of the Village, and it has been and continues to be such a treat! I have the awesome privilege of teaching bible study to the 6 and 7 year olds. I also teach media as a rotation. What a wonderful and challenging summer of camp it has been!

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Hien praying with the Littles at Camp Faith.

Teaching Bible study has been the most challenging thing for me these past few weeks. I have been averaging about 20 littles, and it has been tough. I feel as if I am getting nothing across to them in Bible study, because they are either confused or they just do not want to listen. I felt so defeated because I felt like my littles were not learning anything in Bible study. I kept thinking, “What am I doing wrong?” Every time I would ask them what we learned about, they always gave me blank stares.

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Hien teaching Bible study to the Littles at Camp Faith.

About the second or third day of Bible study when I asked, I had that one same little girl who could tell me everything word for word, and she just got it, and I thought back to what Mr. John tells us all the time. Sometimes we get so caught up in focusing on everything all around us that we forget to focus on that one child. I kept thinking of every little thing else, that I forgot to focus on that one child. This quote from the first week of the Bible study came to mind, “Every challenge is an opportunity to increase our fear or faith.”

I am looking forward to all the things that God has in store for these three camps this summer! I am so excited that He has allowed me to be a small part of what He is going to do this summer!

-Hien

Summer Bible Camp, Where a Kid Can Be a Kid!

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Julisa bustin’ a move with the Middle Girls!

Hello! I’m Julisa and this is my fifth summer working as an intern at Summer Bible Camp. I’ve had the privilege of serving with John and Dolores in their mission to share the message of Jesus Christ through faith, hope, and love. I’m honored that they keep having me back. So far the first week of camp has been great! We were rained out the first day, but the rest of the week was full of sunshine.

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Julisa and Elisabeth entertaining children with a classic: duck, duck, goose!

I’m in charge of teaching Bible Study to the Fantastic 4 and 5 year olds and teaching a dance rotation to all of the campers. While the first week has been great, it’s also been difficult. Confession: I’ve never really taught or interacted with the 4 and 5 year olds at LOV. I’ve always steered towards the older kids, mainly the girls, because I can relate to them. So this summer, I have a bit of a challenge before me, kind of like the walls of Jericho that we studied about last week. I feel like Joshua; I have been given and entrusted with a task that I haven’t done before. And to be honest, I was really afraid. The night before the first day of camp, I kept quoting our verse of the summer Joshua 1:9, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

I usually get the jitters when I do something new, but this time around it was different. I prayed and asked God to speak through me so that the kids will understand and let it not be me who’s talking, but God. He helped me by sending the rain and giving me two kids the first day. Bible Study went well, so well that I got a little cocky just like Joshua did when he tried to overtake Ai.

So, the second day of Bible Study, I had 8 kids, and it was terrible! I had everything planned out and got no point across. I managed to pray with them, but that was it. After Bible Study, I was so discouraged and distracted that it messed up the rest of my day. I drove to my second job after camp exhausted and reflecting on everything thing that went wrong that day. I came to the conclusion that I’m no quitter, and this task of teaching an age group that I’m not used to working with is not impossible for God. God can do big things in their lives this summer if I just let Him use me.

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Julisa teaching her Kinders (4 & 5 year olds) the scripture memory verse of the summer, Joshua 1:9!

I’m expecting great things to happen this summer, and I’m excited to see them come to light! Keep the interns and me in your prayers as you read our blogs and view our pictures. Thank you in advance for your prayers and support!

– Julisa

Little Surprises

Tammy with her 11-14 year old girls at Camp Faith!

Tammy’s 11-14 year old girls at Camp Faith!

Summer camp is always filled with surprises, but it’s the little ones that take us by biggest surprise. God has a way of showing that His ways are always best. I was a little apprehensive about one of the girls from last year coming back to camp this year. I felt that she would be a great distraction to the other girls in my group. I just knew all she wanted was to come see how many boys would pay her attention. I began praying about it; I told God I wanted His will to take place.

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The older girls in action, busy working on a craft!

The next day sure enough she was back. I had an uneasy feeling. Yet, God showed me I was wrong. She listened during Bible study. She played the games. And the biggest surprise of all, at the end of the day she had earned Super Hero status! God showed me that truly loving someone goes a long way. He showed me that trusting Him to handle the situation is always best. I’m so thankful for those little surprises and all my girls this year!

– Tammy

Senior Spotlight on Philanesha

Honestly, it doesn’t even seem possible that Philanesha could be graduating this year. We’ve known her since she was probably six years old; she has been at Light of the VIllage since its very beginning. We have watched Phil Phil grow, learn, lead, and develop into the young lady she is today.

Philanesha receiving her diploma at graduation Monday night.

Philanesha receiving her diploma at graduation Monday night.

Though she has always been a quiet, more reserved individual, Philanesha’s meekness and mild temperament are not to be mistaken for lack of passion or capability. Philanesha has made an outstanding TeenLeader, showing great care with the kids in her groups, and was a wonderful addition to our team in Mexico, maintaining a positive attitude and constantly engaging the people and projects she encountered.

Philanesha with one of the children for who we helped build a house last year.

Philanesha with one of the children for whom we helped build a house last year.

But we have to be honest. We did have one problem with Phil Phil while we were in Mexico. Homegirl takes out TWO people AT A TIME when she sneezes! It’s really pretty amazing (and hilarious as long as you’re not in the direct path). As many times as we’ve told her. “Phil, COVER. YOUR. MOUTH.” She just replies sweetly, “but I never know when it’s coming.” This may be true, but sometimes you just wish she’d yell out, “TAKE COVER!” Nonetheless, it made for good laughs…and lots of Germ-X usage.

Before we embarrass her anymore, we should mention that Phil Phil has been accepted to four schools: Bishop State Community College, Jackson State University, William Carey University, and Faulkner State Community College. She will be attending the latter in the fall and would like to study psychology. Additionally, she was awarded Newcomer of the Year by her softball coach this year.

Philanesha pitching during her senior season of softball.

Philanesha pitching during her senior season of softball.

Phil is the older sister to FOUR sweet girls, and we can’t wait to see how her example will inspire her sisters to excel in school, sports, and in their walk with Christ. We are proud of you Phil Phil, and we are thankful for the example that you set for the next generation at LOV.

Philanesha today after getting her drivers license!

Philanesha today after getting her drivers license!

If you feel led to partner with LOV as we encourage and financially assist our seniors with their graduation activities or to sponsor a TeenLeader for the summer, please do so here: http://www.lightofthevillage.org/#/you-can-help/give.

Senior Spotlight on Dewonna

Tonight we got to watch Dewonna walk across the stage at her high school graduation…and in platform heels no less. As anyone who knows her could tell you, sass has always come naturally to Dewonna! 🙂 She carries herself with a certain confidence that perhaps stems from a lifetime of braving adversities. She says she has overcome many challenges by “praying and never giving up.”

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Dewonna and her family have been a part of LOV for several years now. Her mother, Lai-Evetta, earned her GED with us at LOV not quite two years ago. Her little brother Dewayne (known as D-Man) has been a regular at the after school program and Summer Bible Camp for probably as long as he can remember. And, apart from being a camper, Dewonna was a TeenLeader at Camp Faith in its inaugural summer and got to take part in starting a new LOV Summer Bible Camp in Chickasaw: a pretty unique accomplishment for a teenager.

Some of her favorite high school memories were made in her family and consumer science class where she learned to sew and cook. She says she used to be able to get out of classes to help her teacher prepare and serve food. She must have earned a lot of brownie points with her teacher! *pun intended*

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Dewonna with Vigor alumnus and Alabama football player, Jalston Fowler, during his visit to Vigor last semester. They now share the same alma mater.

Dewonna plans to attend Bishop State in the Fall and begin working on a college degree immediately. We are proud for Dewonna and all that she has accomplished, and we look forward to seeing her succeed in the future.

If you feel led to partner with LOV as we encourage and financially assist our seniors with their graduation activities or to sponsor a TeenLeader for the summer, please do so here: http://www.lightofthevillage.org/#/you-can-help/give.

Senior Spotlight: Makayla

As we continue our series of senior spotlights honoring our seniors at Light of the Village, we would like to introduce you to Makayla. We have only known Makayla for a short time, but we are so glad God saw it fitting for her to come into our lives right when she did, just as she began making preparations for the transition into life after high school.

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Makayla has an impressive resume of extracurricular activities including basketball, volleyball, track, softball, yearbook staff, and leadership. The girl is highly athletic, and it doesn’t hurt that she’s about 6’3″! A native of Illinois, Makayla moved to Prichard in July 2014 and finished up her high school career at Vigor High School. Makayla has done well for herself academically here, has been accepted to three colleges, and received scholarship offers from two of them.

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Makayla on the free throw line at a Vigor home game.

After graduation, Makayla intends to work part-time and go to school part-time. In addition to student and employee, Makayla will have another role to fill this fall: mother. Makayla is currently six months pregnant, expecting in August. She says it was hard for her to hear that she was pregnant, that her dreams of playing college basketball would be challenged, and that her future would look drastically different than she’d imagined. Yet she continued to go to school faithfully, stayed positive, and didn’t give up, and for that, we are so very proud! She is determined to press on in her pursuit of a college degree and career. We are enormously grateful that we have the opportunity to meet Makayla where she is and journey with her as she seeks out her next steps! Please be in prayer for her during these next few months of transition.

Makayla, the tall, beautiful one on the far right, at her senior breakfast last Friday :)

Makayla, the tall, beautiful one on the far right, at her senior breakfast last Friday 🙂

If you feel led to partner with LOV as we encourage and financially assist our seniors with their graduation activities, please do so here: http://www.lightofthevillage.org/#/you-can-help/give.

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