Young Lives Is Life Giving: A Testimonial

The following is a story and testimony from Ashley Kiser, a mentor and team leader at Young Lives. Young Lives is an organization that seeks to mentor, support, and care for teen moms while introducing them to Jesus, the one who can truly meet all their needs.

I first met Jadah through the social worker at Dudley High School when she was a junior. She was seventeen years old and four months pregnant. She is the oldest child in her family and had been kicked out of her house when her mom found out she was pregnant. After two or three meetings together, she confided in me that she was terrified. She knew abortion was not an option, but she did not know how she was going to care for this child. (She is so brave; she choose life.) After going through her options for support from family members and the father of the child, we quickly realized she had very few. So, we discussed adoption. She was very open to the idea and met with me and an adoption counselor, but after talking with friends, they convinced her that they would help her raise the child.

June of 2016

Brayden was born. He was so little and Jadah was so in love. Visiting her in the hospital she looked at me with tears in her eyes, saying, “I could not imagine giving my child away.” At this point she had gotten into stable housing with her aunt and the paternal grandmother had offered to help. She had a plan and was now trying to give her child the best that she could while also figuring out how to survive daily struggles on her own.

Young Lives Was There

Jadah never missed a Wednesday night at Young Lives. We would open the Bible together and struggle through the hard questions of life like why do bad things happen and does God really hear my prayers? After spending a week at a Young Life camp with Brayden and the leaders, Jadah decided to give her life to Jesus. She is confident that he is the only one who will give her hope when she feels like there is no hope anywhere else in her world.

This last August marks the one-year anniversary of giving her life over to Jesus. Brayden is fifteen months now, and I wish I could tell you that her life has had a dramatic change for good, but that would not be entirely true. What is true is that her view of God has changed, learning what he has to say about her life and what he has to say about her. For her to be successful in the world’s eyes, she has major battles to hurdle. She is battling these struggles little by little—with some mistakes—by replacing the lies she believes with the truth about God.

Moving Forward

Jadah has made another brave decision to leave Greensboro and join the Navy. She leaves in February, and I was talking with her last week about Brayden. While she knows this is her best option to provide for her son, she is committed to making the best plan for Brayden while she is in basic training.

Jadah’s story is not finished. She has a lot of hard decisions to make. But she would say that because of Young Lives she knows she is not making these decisions alone. She has Jesus.

Young Lives Doesn’t Just Effect These Moms

If I am honest, when I first started with Young Lives two years ago, I was not sure I was going to like it. I thought it would be depressing. I did not see any hope in the lives of some of these girls. But now I am convinced more than ever that the Young Lives mentors are light in dark places where there seems to be no one else bearing light. Committing to pray for Jadah and Brayden has burdened my heart. They are now a part of my life, and it matters to me that they are okay. Isn’t this what it means to be a part of God’s family? When our families are broken, we are invited into the greater family of God to fill in the gaps.

While the sacrifices my family and I choose to make to spend time with these girls have felt big, we have also benefited. It is not easy to leave my family with two young children at 5:30 pm on Wedensday nights where chaos of two small children abounds. But when I get home, I am different. I have experienced a holy place where many girls who experience shame and guilt have gotten to experience the truth about Jesus Christ. While I might not have been a teen mom myself, I have experienced the emotions of shame, guilt, and rejection. I might not be able to relate in the specific circumstances, but I can relate in the feelings that point us to our greater need for what Jesus did on the cross. Choosing to spend a few hours of my week with teen moms is worth it. Jadah and Brayden are worth it.

There are a lot of ways to get plugged into Young Lives. We need mentors, meals, babysitters, money, and prayer! If you want specifics in any of these areas, please feel free to reach out to Ashley Kiser at Kiserash@gmail.com.

-Ashley Kiser (Mercy Hill Member & Young Lives Mentor)

A Church Of Community Groups: Why You Should Come to College Connect

 

Welcome back students! Every year, thousands of college students converge in the Triad to attend the many colleges and universities in the area. We, as a church, love college students and see you as a valuable part of our church.

If you are just coming around Mercy Hill for the first time, I encourage you to jump in with us. This Sunday we will be hosting College Connect–an event all about connecting college students to Mercy Hill Church through Community Groups. At Mercy Hill, we are not a church that does groups, but a church of groups— groups are a big deal! So, when we say we want you connected to Mercy Hill, we mean we want you connected to a group.

The reason why groups are a big deal is because discipleship is a big deal. Discipleship, simply defined, is word taught and life caught. If you are newer to Christianity, discipleship is about a life that conforms to the teachings and commands of Jesus. However, Jesus didn’t just give us an example to follow or a set of rules to keep. Jesus came and lived the very life that we should have lived and died the death that we deserve, so that we might be reconciled back to God. Jesus did all these things in our place for our sin (rebellion against God). This is what we call the gospel (it means good news), and it shapes every single aspect of our lives. Discipleship is about conforming to the teachings and commands of Jesus, but the power and motivation to live into those things comes from what Jesus did in our place, the gospel. Discipleship is centered around the gospel.

We don’t simply need to be taught more information–although there are many things to learn–but we need to be immersed, like when you are trying to learn a foreign language. Students, if you want to learn more about what it means to be a Christian or you want to grow in your faith, then you need to jump into community because discipleship happens in community.

This is why College Connect is all about connecting you to a Community Group. We have groups all over the Triad and, without a doubt, there is a group near you! So please check out our College Connect page and sign-up for a group today!

–Jon Sheets (College Ministry Director)

 

You’re Invited: MH Students Fall Kickoff

There is something unique about the start of a new year that often brings a great deal of excitement. I remember as a student, from elementary well into my teens, I would lay restlessly in my bed awaiting the morning of the first day of school. With my new outfit laid out (this was before the fad of school uniforms), my new school shoes, my new bookbag, and my new school supplies, it seemed like morning would never come. The excitement of the new year also brought a time of personal reflection and goal setting. As a student this usually meant new friends and good grades. This was also true for me as a teacher. Each new year brought with it a fresh excitement and anticipation of what was to come.

The Mercy Hill student ministry team and I share a similar feeling regarding the MH Students Kickoff that is closely approaching. With a new name, new logo, new night of the week, and new location, the team eagerly awaits the first night of student ministry for the 2017-2018 school year. The beginning of this new year has allowed us to reflect on what God has done and set big goals for what we want to see God do within the students of Mercy Hill.  

So if you are a student reading this blog, here are a few thoughts for you…

Great Time to Jump on Board

If you have been involved in the past, we are excited to reconnect with you. In addition, we are excited to lock arms with you as we unfold our vision for the 2017-2018 school year. For those of you that will be brand new to MH Students, this is the best time to jump in. This night will be dedicated to telling you what MH Students is all about, and we will have a great time as we do it.

Bring a Friend

This is going to be a special night. There will be activities, games, a rock-climbing wall, giveaways, and conversations that you’re not going to want to miss. With that in mind, we are encouraging returning students and new students alike to bring a friend with them so that they too might hear what God could do in their lives this semester.

See You Then

The student ministry team wants to invite all students in grades 7 through 12 to come to our annual kickoff event in which we will connect, have fun, cast vision, and get excited about what God has in store for students in the 2017-2018 school year.

 — Ronald Redmond (Student Ministry Director)

The event is Sunday, August 27th at the Regional Campus from 6:30-8:00pm

What Flying Crocs Taught Me About the Gospel

Whish.

I felt the breeze coming off of a size 3 shoe as it flew by my head. Again.

This was the third time that Ryan[1] had become overpowered by the urge to launch a Croc grenade across the classroom to land in his brother’s lap. And after two attempts at correcting and redirecting this behavior, it was time for us to have a chat about it. We moved over to the side of the classroom and sat down across from one another. His head went down right away, but I wasn’t there to scold him. We talked for a little while about why it wasn’t safe to send our shoes sailing into a sea of our friend’s heads, but then I asked him why he was having such a hard time obeying his teachers when we asked him to stop. Exasperated, he looked up with teary eyes and said, “I don’t know why I can’t listen, it’s just so hard to keep the rules.”

The Similar Beat of Human Hearts

As he said it, I could feel my heart nodding in agreement. I realized that this conversation Ryan and I were having about his sin is the same one I have with God about my own sin all the time. And as Ryan sat there frustrated at how hard it is to keep his shoes on his feet, I could see the battle that wages in my own heart happening in his. It’s hard to choose to honor God when our rebellious hearts want to run the other direction.

In a sweet moment, Ryan and I got to pray together that God would help him say no to his sin and obey his teachers. We got to thank Jesus for living the perfect life so that when we mess up, God forgives us and doesn’t stay mad at us. Visibly relieved and with tears dried, Ryan scurried back over to join the class. We listened to the remainder of our lesson and, by God’s grace, all footwear stayed in its rightful place.

Depending on God Like a Child

Even hours after the service concluded, I continued to think back on our conversation and prayer time. Bad theology tries to teach us that God is only interested in our perfect discipline. We either become self-righteous in our ability to follow the rules externally, or devastated and despondent when we see our failure over-and-over again. It has taken me years to realize that in moments of weakness, my first move should be to ask for God’s help. I am created for a relationship with God that requires me to lean hard on his Spirit working inside me rather than white-knuckled attempts to clean up my own heart. God knows that we aren’t going to live perfectly, that’s why he wants our dependence. In the moments that I come to him as a child, vulnerable and helpless, he is always faithful to listen, forgive, restore, and lead me forward. It’s an exchange that doesn’t make sense in this world—my sin for the righteousness of Jesus—but Ryan and I are both learning that obedience grows from a heart that’s captured by this mystery of grace.

Our hope in Mercy Hill Kids is to help children learn dependence on God from the start. As we help them create these healthy rhythms in their walk with Jesus, it provides a consistent reminder of how I should approach the Lord in hard moments. Being a part of Kids Ministry teaches each of us so much about discipline, discipleship, and dependence. Each week it is a privilege to speak the gospel into the lives of these kids while the Lord uses them to speak into mine as well.

Kids Staff Member

[1] Name changed for safety of the child and sake of the parents.

Kids Week Recap

We can’t believe Kids Week is over! Our kids had an amazing time studying the life of Joseph and learning just how much the Savior of the world loves them. We had almost 500 kids join us last week and over 100 volunteers who committed to spreading the gospel to this next generation. 

We just want to give a huge shout out to everyone who gave up their time last week to pour into our kids lives. With in-house programming and two locations, we were able to reach more kids with gospel-centered truth than ever before. We are now praying for baptisms and life change to come from this event. Kids Week is for God’s glory, and we praise him for the incredible time we had. 


To check out all the photos from this week, click here

What’s Our Motivation for Local Missions?

Do you ever wonder why you do some of the things that you do? “Why do I act this way around that person?” “Why do I think about a particular issue so differently than some of my peers?” When you start to ask yourself these kinds of questions, you will inevitably get to the question of motivation. Motivation is the reason why we do what we do. Well, as individuals and as church, it is important that we ask ourselves about our motivations in ministry. So, in light of the fact that we are less than a week away from Serve Week at Mercy Hill, I think it important that we revisit the motivation for mission, particularly “local missions” which is what Serve Week is all about!

So what is (or should be) our motivation for local missions? You could pose that question to many people and get several different answers. But at Mercy Hill, there is really just one big answer. Simply put, the motivation for mission is the grace of God in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This one singular motivation is what drives us to serve in a host of different ways.

Here’s how we think about it: Jesus loved us when we were unlovable, and Jesus served us when we were too lost, hurting, and broken to help ourselves. Therefore, we as a church will not turn a blind eye to the needs of our city because we too were in desperate need. Tim Keller explains this so clearly in his book Ministries of Mercy. He says, “When a Christian sees prostitutes, alcoholics, prisoners, drug addicts, unwed mothers, the homeless, the refugees, he knows that he is looking in a mirror.” Christ loved and served us in spite of those things. So we should, as His ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20), love and serve others in spite of those things.

One of the ways that we feel this is done most effectively at Mercy Hill is through Serve Week. Serve Week happens through our Community Groups ministry three times a year. We intentionally set aside these weeks for our groups to break from their normal group meeting format in order to partner with local organizations throughout the Triad. The goal is that we would be able to, through these partnerships, show the love of Jesus to our community both in word and deed.

The next Serve Week is November 13th -19th, so if you are already in a group, I would encourage you to remind yourself of the grace of God in your life and let that grace be what motivates and fuels you to serve next week. If you are not in a group, I would encourage you to get plugged in as soon as possible. We will be launching new groups in January, and we very much want you to be a part of one of those new groups!

Lastly, pray. Pray that God would use our church to change hearts and lives in the upcoming week. Pray that the people of Mercy Hill would be brought into the orbit of those in need of Jesus, and that the tangible needs that are met would ultimately lead to their greatest need being met, their need of Jesus!

-Randy Titus (Campus Pastor, Community Groups Director)

712 Students: Jesus Has More for You Than Pizza

Life is hard. If you are a teenager or the parent of a teenager, I can’t begin to imagine the whirlwind that your life has spiraled into with the start of this school year. From sports teams practicing, to homework, to band practice, to club involvement, to having a social life, to not forgetting to eat, and everything else in between, it seems as if there is no discernable refuge from the onslaught of things you could be investing in.

If you are a student, by this point in your life, you probably feel the pressure to have a five-year and ten-year life plan, to have your major and post graduate plans nailed down, to start thinking about picking a spouse, and to potentially start up that 401(k) you need to retire before age 97. You are essentially called to decide by the age of fourteen to know exactly who you are, what you want with your life, and how you plan to get it.

Jesus Is Greater than Your Plans

I remember these big plans in my own life. I was going to go play college golf, finish up school as hassle free as possible by finding the easiest major on campus, slide right on to the PGA tour, get a sweet German Shepherd dog, and find a honey to bask in the awesomeness with. If I were to have said, “Man my life would be okay if ____________________” the genius plan outlined above would have filled in that blank.

Before I could make these utterly ridiculous dreams come true, something happened to my plan. I found myself in constant contact with an adult in my life that kept sharing the love of Jesus with me relentlessly. I grew up in church, so I had a context for the things he was saying to me. I just never really considered that Jesus could have a role in my day-to-day life. It wasn’t long after these consistent encounters with someone sharing the Gospel with me that Jesus came in and had a field day destroying the flawless life plan I had set out.

Jesus is Worth Your Life

Our world and our American culture specifically offer an uncountable amount of things for you to center your life around. The problem is that none of these offerings lead to a lasting joy. This leaves the only answer to our need for fulfillment in the Gospel of King Jesus. One of the many reasons we are excited to launch 712 this fall is to bring students face to face with this Gospel message and get them around Jesus adoring adults that won’t hesitate to speak this truth into their lives.

I have no idea what your experience is with other student ministries at other churches, if any. You may be used to monthly outings to Carowinds, Wet ‘n Wild, fifth quarters, death by pizza parties, lock-ins, and the like. What you will find at 712 here at Mercy Hill is a much simpler offering for you as a student to come face-to-face with the God of the Bible every single week. Programs aren’t bad they just aren’t the goal. Discipleship is the goal, and 712 is our avenue for making that happen.

Our hope is to throw a massive wrench into the gears of all the plans you have set out for your life, students. We want you to radically orient your life around the one who laid his life down for yours and make the chief end of your life ensuring that there isn’t one person left on this earth that hasn’t heard Jesus’ name.

Our team has prayed and has worked tirelessly all summer to assure that between all the things competing for your affections and your time we can hold Jesus up as the only thing worth pursuing with reckless abandon. We can’t wait to see you this Wednesday, September 7th at 7:12pm at our Edgefield facility (3530 Edgefield Rd. Greensboro, NC 27409) for an incredible launch to our fall semester.

-Clay Holland (Student Ministry Director)

“I’ve Been to the Mountaintop!” Thoughts from Elevate Summer Camp

This summer, at Elevate Summer Camp, we had the opportunity to take nearly fifty students down to Anderson, South Carolina for an exciting week of worshipping Jesus. The life change that happened in this group of students from stories of salvation to students committing to living a life on mission was something unlike our student ministry has ever seen.

What’s Elevate Summer Camp All About?

If you have never been on a camp trip, it is hard to put into words the mountaintop experience that comes from having a week set aside for Jesus to be put on grand display. Camp is a week where you are totally unplugged from the outside world. The stresses and pressures of day-to-day life simply don’t exist. During this week, you are given Gospel-centered Bible teachings every single day, sometimes twice a day. You have a team around you holding you accountable to open up the Word in personal devotion. Every single night with a small group of your peers you get to dissect what God is teaching you. On top of all that you have an endless supply of soft serve ice cream. It is a week unlike any other!

Mountaintop Withdrawals

If you went on this trip, you probably came home and felt closer to Jesus than you ever have before. Now that we are a few weeks removed from it, you may find yourself back in the place you started before camp kicked off. You are probably wondering what happened. Where did that feeling of knowing Jesus more intimately than ever before go? How can I get it back?

Peter in Matthew 17 had a similar “mountaintop” experience when he saw Jesus move in an unbelievable way in the transfiguration. He saw Jesus in a new light that opened his eyes to the divinity, holiness, and power of the Son of God. What happened next to Peter? He came down the mountain and back into the realities of life. Just a few chapters later, you can find Peter denying the same Jesus he loved so dearly and saw so clearly on top of the mountain.

Embrace the Abnormal

The natural human condition pushes us away from God not closer to him. So when you come home and life gets back to the way it was before, you need to do a few things. First, you need to recognize that what you are going through is normal. Second, you need to recognize that moving out of that norm is going to take a little legwork on your end. If the natural inclination is to run away from God and not closer to him, we need to engage in the abnormal and strive for our relationship with Christ.

Maybe you feel like your relationship with Jesus is back to the ho-hum level it was before camp. You haven’t read your Bible, prayed, or met with a leader or fellow small group member. Perhaps you’ve slept-in instead of going to church or you haven’t given Jesus the time of day. You shouldn’t be shocked to find yourself drifting away. You need to realize that the same Jesus you saw on grand display at camp is the very one that exists in the pages of your Bible; the very one who is preached from the stage every week on Sundays in the service, at Route 56, on Wednesdays at 712; and the same Jesus that is eager to listen to each word of prayer that you speak.

Jesus is Available to You Everywhere

Rather than accepting movement away from Jesus as the normal, you need to strive and fight to ensure that King Jesus of the Bible is sitting on the throne in your life. Camp experiences are awesome. If you went with us, you undoubtedly had an incredible week. Don’t make your relationship with Jesus dependent on that mountaintop experience. What you need to do is experience that same Jesus you saw at camp on grand display each and every day. Listen to the words of Paul in 1 Timothy 6, “Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”

If you are looking for any resources about setting a routine for getting into the Word, setting up a prayer schedule, or getting together with a small group, don’t hesitate to let your leader know!

-Clay Holland (Student Ministry Director)

A Special Story from Hope Academy

Last week Mercy Hill community group members partnered with local ministries to serve all throughout the Triad as a part of Mercy Hill Serve Week. See below for a story from one of our ministry partners, Hope Academy.

 


 

“My Life” by Lilian Ishimwe 

I grew up in the Congo in a city named Goma and lived with my parents and my siblings. We lived in an apartment that looked like a house but didn’t have electricity, water or a bathroom. Several times a week my mom would send me to the community fountain to get water. I would get in line with my bucket or big bottle and wait my turn in long lines to fill them up. Because the water was heavy it would take hours to carry it home. The water was used to wash dishes, cook and take a bath.

It was hard to go to school.  I walked about 1- 2 hours every day by myself. I would leave home at 6 am walking to get to school by 7 am. When it rained, I had to take a different trail and the trip would take 2 hours. Learning in class wasn’t easy because the classrooms were crowded with 30-40 students in each class. In the Congo it was difficult for my parents to find jobs and take care of us.  My mother never went to school, and my father took a few classes and stopped going to school. My mother worked hard to provide us with food.  My mom would work for other people, doing jobs like cleaning houses, washing dishes or washing clothes. She did not get paid a lot but she would take the money, go to the market and buy food. My dad helped farmers take care of the animals. He made little money doing this.

In 2009, the war began. We had to pack our stuff and move away.  My parents could not find work so my dad thought about taking us back to our old village, but instead he went back to see if the war was still going. We waited to hear from my dad to see if it was safe to come back but my mom never heard from him.  My mom believed my dad was no longer alive so she moved us to Kenya because she heard it was safe there. It was difficult for my mother to find work, a place for us to stay and food to eat. It was tough for my mother without a husband supporting her, and it was hard for my siblings and me to live without our dad. We went to a public school in Nairobi and still had to walk about 1-2 hours to get there.   Because I was mostly shy and quiet in class it was hard to make friends. Not speaking the language made it even more difficult. Growing up without a father was hard for me because my father would help me with homework every day and encouraged me to do my best work. He always said, ” Lilian, be the best you can be”. My mother wanted to come to America so we could have a better life because in Kenya we were refugees.  We stayed in Kenya about 4 years. We never heard from our father.

On December 6, 2012, we came to America. My mother didn’t speak English, and my siblings and I spoke very little.  In Greensboro the immigration workers helped my mom find an apartment and a job, but we changed schools 3 times. At one school I was bullied so badly that for two weeks I skipped school by hiding behind my apartment building until my mom went to work. My mom found out and her American friend went to the school to talk with teachers about the bullying. It got better for while but never stopped. 

My mom was told about Hope Academy. I had an interview and the next week my siblings and I were accepted.  I started Hope Academy on August 17, 2015. Before I started Hope Academy I thought I would be bullied by other students. I was wrong. My classmates have been very nice to me. Being at Hope Academy has been fun, because I like the small classes. I have also made good friends here. Some things I really like at Hope Academy are teamwork, the opportunity to submit my prayer requests to my classmates and my teacher, and field trips. At Hope I learned how to read carefully and have increased my vocabulary. Being at Hope Academy prepared me to work hard, set goals and work towards achieving my goals.  Lilian’s story was written April 7, 2016 

Lilian has been accepted at Bennett Middle College and will be the first in her family to graduate from High School. There is no doubt that Lilian will go on to do great things.  Lilian is a living example of the scripture from which Hope Academy gets it’s name:  Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper  you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” We are honored to know Lilian and help educate her and her younger siblings who attend Hope Academy.

-Lilian Ishimwe (8th grader at Hope Academy)

If you’re interested in supporting Hope Academy with a gift to help students like Lilian reach their fullest potential and excel above the challenges and obstacles life brings, please visit Hope Academy’s website here. You can also mail checks to

Hope Academy
PO Box 10616
Greensboro, NC 27404

How City Life Changed My Job

A lot of people think that graduating from college is this incredibly glamorous moment where you can finally start to live life the way you really want. No more classes, no more assignments, and thank goodness, no more group projects. But sometimes that transition from student to “real-life adult” is a bit less glamorous than you might imagine. Where am I going to live? Should I upgrade to Cheerios or is it okay to keep eating Lucky Charms? Have cell phone bills always been this big? It can be tricky to say the least. But the most important question to ask might be this: how does the gospel fit in to the mix?

 

In the same way that City Project primarily focuses on how our lives fit into the mission of God, City Life deals with how the gospel changes everything about our everyday lives – work, home, and community. Almost everything that the world (and western culture particularly) says about work has a negative connotation. Work is difficult and unenjoyable, but if you stick with it in the long run, your life may end up marginally better than the other guy. This is completely anti-gospel. Through your time with City Life, you’ll get an up-close look at how a correct view of the gospel radically changes how we view the realm of work and occupation. You’ll be able to partner not only with fellow students and young professionals who are in a similar life situation as you, but also a mentor who’s had valuable experience in fields where you’re headed. Having this resource was definitely one of my favorite parts about City Life. Having someone there who could answer my questions and also challenge me in certain areas of my life was a great experience.

 

I can honestly say, that had I not done City Life this past summer, I probably would not still be at my current job. Even though I might not be at this job forever, I can still leverage my position there now to allow God to work and to invest in my coworkers by genuinely caring about their lives and always having a good attitude. The gospel leads us to work well because of what Jesus has done for us, not simply to make him think we’re doing well.

 

If you’re considering City Life, continue to pray about it! I could’ve easily passed on it, but I felt God calling me to stay in Greensboro and work in the community here, and wanted to get plugged into a group of like-minded individuals who would encourage me in learning how best to advance His kingdom in the workplace. Don’t allow the comfort of summer to get in the way of God doing something big in your life!

– James Ransom (High Point University Graduate)