What an out of this world experience we’ve had this past week during Vacation Bible School! Throughout the week, our kids and volunteers learned that they can explore where God’s power can take them by His power at work within them! Each day they went beyond with faith, boldness, kindness, thankfulness, and hope, while having fun learning about bible stories such as Queen Esther, Daniel and the Lion’s den, and how Jesus comforted his friends on his way to Emmaus by means of science, crafts, games, snack, music, and bible storytelling. Our adult and teen volunteers modeled what it means to follow Christ by helping the younger kids to learn, pray, and know Jesus.
We asked our church adults, teens and community volunteers to step up in a big way, and wow, did they ever!! To Mars and Beyond was an amazing VBS experience for over 185 kids, supported by more than 80 adult and teen volunteers! I am incredibly grateful for the volunteers, both adult and teens, who gave up a week of vacation from work, a week of hanging out with their friends, or catching up on cleaning the house, to help share God’s love with our kids. They made this week fun, exciting, and a lasting memory for so many kids, some of whom this is their first experience with our church, and hearing about God!
Kimberly stepped up as our VBS Director this year and did an over the top job organizing so many kids and volunteers with contagious enthusiasm and positivity! New this year, we launched a double session VBS, adding in an afternoon session for elementary aged kids due to the overwhelming registration response that we’ve experienced in previous years. Kimberly rose above and beyond this occasion, meeting every challenge with a smile and a creative solution. I am deeply grateful for Kimberly and our volunteers! VBS would not be possible without you, and it is a joy and honor to work with people who truly exemplify what it means to live out Jesus’s call to us and share His love. If you see Kimberly or any of our wonderful volunteers this week, PLEASE join me in thanking them for equipping children during VBS to see where God’s power can take them, and spreading so much love and joy along the journey!
It is with great joy that we share with the news that we have hired Michelle Galdames-Henry as our Children and Family Minister and Jon Galdames-Henry as our Youth and Family Minister.
As you have hopefully heard, Sara Dyson, our current Children and Family Minister, has decided to step down from her 30 hours a week position in order to focus her time and energy on being a mom. We will celebrate her ministry with us on Sunday, July 21 and look forward to continuing to have her and her family as part of the Abiding Presence faith family. After much discernment, research and prayer, the church council decided to move forward with two full time positions – a Children & Family Minister and a Youth & Family Minister.
We launched a national search for these positions and had the opportunity to interview several qualified candidates. What stood out to the interview teams about Michelle and Jon was their ability to articulate their faith and what it means to be followers of Christ in the world today. Jon talked about coming to faith in middle school when he started attending youth group for the first time and the profound impact youth ministry had on his life. Michelle talked about growing up in the church and realizing in high school that working in a church was a career possibility. Both of them have a passion for engaging children, youth and families in hands-on service to help us live out our core value of being “God’s hands and feet in the world.” They have experience, both independently of each other and together, in organizing ministry, leadership and working with volunteers.
Michelle and Jon graduated from Eastern University with degrees in Youth Ministry. They are recently married and moved to Springfield within the past month. Jon grew up in Centerville, Virginia, so he knows the area well.
We extended formal employment offers to Michelle and Jon this past Sunday afternoon and they started first thing Monday morning so they could experience Vacation Bible School (VBS). Following VBS, Michelle will then have the opportunity to overlap for two weeks with Sara Dyson, our current Children and Family Minister, in order to facilitate a smooth transition. Jon will be able to chaperone our confirmation youth at confirmation camp later this month. We’re grateful for their willingness to quickly jump into ministry with us.
Please join us in welcoming Michelle and Jon to the congregation and to these positions.
Earlier this year, our Mental Health Team partnered with NAMI-Northern Virginia, a local mental health organization, to submit a grant proposal to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) to expand our mental health ministry. I have exciting news, Abiding Presence has been awarded a $10,000 grant by the ELCA for our mental health ministry plan!
The grant will allow our Mental Health Team to continue to make a difference by working with NAMI-Northern Virginia to do the following: 1. hire a part-time family support partner to work on-site with families navigating the mental health system; 2. offer a support class for family members of those mental illness at Abiding Presence and 3. Offer more events and training to educate, support and raise awareness in our community. These funds allow us to be able to offer childcare so that more people are able to attend and access these vital programs and resources.
Our Mental Health Team has been engaged for the past three years in a ministry of welcome, accompaniment and hope for persons with mental illness and their loved ones. Our Mental Health Ministry has brought healing and hope and has changed lives. With this grant, we’ll be able to expand our partnership with NAMI-Northern Virginia and offer more events, trainings, classes and support in our congregation and community.
Over 50 churches submitted proposals to the ELCA and Abiding Presence is one of the 25 churches chosen to receive funding. We are grateful for this amazing opportunity to continue changing lives and bringing hope in our community! Stay tuned for more information in the coming weeks and contact Pastor Heidi or a member of the mental health team if you’d like to learn more or get involved!
There are lots of reasons people look for a church home. Sometimes it is because of a move, a life event or a transition. It could be that you keep hearing that still, small voice of God in your heart or have a nagging feeling that maybe there's more to life than what you are currently experiencing. Maybe you want to find a community and friends. Perhaps you have a child who you would like to have baptized or are recently engaged and looking for a church in which you can get married. You (or your kids) might have big questions about God and are looking for answers. Whatever your reason, we're glad that you are looking for a church home and we're especially glad you are looking at Abiding Presence!
As many of you have hopefully heard, Abiding Presence is one of 12 churches in the country who have been chosen to be part of Princeton Seminary’s Log College Project Community of Practice. The Log College Project is focused on innovating the church’s ministry with youth in ways that build new ministries that take theology and young people seriously. This past week seven of us from Abiding Presence had the chance to spend five days on the campus of Princeton Seminary learning, dreaming and discerning with the other 12 churches.
Our intergenerational Design Team ranged from a rising 9th grader to retired members of our congregation (and several of us in between as well). We participated in workshops, worshiped, ate ice cream and talked—a LOT—about what we heard God calling us to do to address the problem of the amount of stress and anxiety facing our high school students today.
The picture below is our team on our last night receiving our grant check for $15,000. Now, however, comes the hard work! We are equipped, excited and enthusiastic about innovating our ministry in a way that creates both physical and relational space for youth experience God’s love and find their purpose as God’s hands and feet in the world.
I would ask that you please start praying specifically for our Log College Project ministry as it begins to unfold. If you want to hear more about what we’re up to, anyone from our Design Team would love the chance to talk with you. We’re also looking for some more amazing adults who feel called to come alongside youth to serve as mentors and conversation partners. If God might be nudging you in this direction, please let us know.
Here at Abiding Presence we talk a lot about being a “faith family.” One of the core values we discerned together this past spring captures that idea with the phrase, “At Abiding Presence we are a faith family, together.” But what exactly does that mean? Last weekend, I saw it in action at, of all places, the pool.
My daughter is on swim team this summer, which means we spend a lot of our time at the pool. While we were parading into a pool with the rest of our swim team for an away meet last week, one of our church kids from the other team came running up to me to say hello. We stopped and chatted for a moment. I had no idea they are swimming at this particular pool. We enjoyed a bit of friendly banter back and forth about our teams, both of which have sharks as our mascot.
When the time came to swim, however, our church family cheered my daughter on just as enthusiastically as if she had been on their team. She got out of the pool to a big high five from the dad who was serving as a timer from the other team. I switched my allegiance, too, cheering appropriately for the opposing team when our church kids were swimming.
When we got back in the car after the meet my daughter said to me, “Who were those people? Were they from church?” “Yes,” I said, as I went on to explain who they were. In her mind, people who she doesn’t know who do things like that are – of course – from church. They are part of our “faith family.”
Being a faith family is not just something we do at church. It is a way of being together out in the world. It is the joy of raising kids together, cheering on the opposing team because they are our team, too, stopping to say hello to one another in the grocery store and just doing life together. Being a family of faith means that we don’t have to go it alone in the world. We follow Jesus together in the sanctuary and in our daily lives.
So, when you see me at the next swim meet, come say hello so I can switch my allegiance at the appropriate moment. When you spot someone from church out in the world – walking through the pentagon, standing in the slug line, at the grocery store or shopping at the mall – stop and say hello. “Don’t you go to Abiding Presence,” is a great opening line. Be a faith family, together.
And, if you happen to need some family support, don’t hesitate to reach out. We cannot always see people’s needs, but we have a big family that is ready to offer support anytime. Just say the word and someone will be there.
We still need 6 more adults - 3 in the morning and 3 in the afternoon - to volunteer in order to make our Vacation Bible School a success. Please consider whether or not you can step up to fill one of these roles! VBS is the week of July 8-12 from 9:00 - 12:00 noon (morning session) and 1:00 - 4:00 p.m. (afternoon session). We also still need as many teen helpers as we can get! Teens, bring your friends! If you can help, please reach out to Sara Dyson, Children and Family Minister, or Kimberly, our volunteer VBS Coordinator.
We arrived on schedule on Saturday and were delighted to see JC, our mission team leader, and Eliezer, his colleague and a second translator, at the airport. Both JC and Eliezer worked with our team last year, so it was like being greeted by old friends.
Pastor Mede met us at the hotel and shared eloquent greetings for us and our entire church. Every time he speaks about us, whether to us directly, to kids and adults at the bateys (company housing/mini-villages for sugarcane workers), or to the mission trip staff, he expresses appreciation for us leaving our families and homes and spending the time and money to embody the love of God. He talks about how the people we often encounter, many of whom are poor Haitian immigrants, may feel forgotten or may not always directly see the love of God embodied. Pastor Mede also expressed that unlike some other well-intentioned mission groups, the Abiding Presence team is offers actual practical help to him with our donations, presence, work and skillsets.
We twice visited Batey 28, which it turns out is pretty near the batey we have visited previous years. On the second day, we spent the morning doing sports ministry with the children and youth in the batey. Wow, that sun is powerful and hot! In the afternoon, we led a Vacation Bible School program, partially in the mud, but everyone had an amazing time.
During Vacation Bible School, we shared about how God cares for each one of us. We performed a couple puppet skits about God's love for everyone and God hearing our prayers, and everyone made a "God’s eye" craft, which were meant to remind the kids that God is always with them. We told the Bible story of Jesus calming the storm and taught that we do not have to be afraid since God is always with us.
Everyone worked hard, adjusted, improvised, adjusted again with changes in schedule and location and resources, which is often how it goes on a mission trip. Craig, Breanna and I played live music and many of the kids got interested in my small "piano" (the little melodica which you play with air like a harmonica except with small piano keys). I taught some of them a bit of how to play Amazing Grace using only the black keys. A few of the older boys (probably middle teenage years) shared with us a very cool rap song they had written about going to church on Sunday and following/trusting God "cien por ciento!" which means, "One hundred percent!". The next two days were filled with construction at the new church site, and music ministry, and more than I can possibly fill in here!
Though many of the socioeconomic problems persist in Batey 28, they have a major and striking difference from Batey Bermejo. In this batey they have permanent running water at a central location, which is carried by pipes put in by the company, and purified with filters put in by Pastor Mede's church. It was amazing to see the difference that it made in the community to have this basic need met.