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Lessons From The Field: Bangkok, Thailand

Before attending Mercy Hill Church, I thought that mission trips only involved groups of people heading to Haiti to build as many houses as they could in a short period of time. I never thought that it may involve being “sent out” to different corners of the world to share the good news of Jesus Christ. My team and I were fortunate enough to travel to the incredible city of Bangkok, Thailand.

Our mornings were spent doing prison ministry and our evenings were spent teaching English at the Baptist Student Center. My favorite day involved attending the women’s prison, where we bonded with inmates through ice-breaker games, shared personal testimonies and a message from the Bible, and prayed over the women. This was the structure we followed for our time there but at the boys’ juvenile detention center, I was responsible for sharing my own story.

I am not generally one to talk about myself–let alone what I was like before, during, and after dedicating my life to Jesus–so standing in front of 50+ boys, all of whom spoke Thai and were covered in tattoos, made me nervous. I heavily relied on God to keep me standing and mask the speed at which my hands were shaking in order to get through it. After I finished, I looked at the boys and was reminded that although I am a white girl from the United States, our lives are related because we all came from the same God.

Another incredible experience was visiting a refugee prison, where people were imprisoned because they outstayed their visas from Sri Lanka and Pakistan. The only time these individuals were allowed to leave their cells was when people like us went in as a group and called them out to talk with us by name. During this hour of reprieve, we got to hear their stories and pour the Gospel into their lives. Some of the people had fled their home countries for being Christians and were working from the inside to help those who felt discouraged and hopeless after being behind bars for going to drastic measures to flee their home countries. 

At night, we helped students practice their English by having simple conversations and explaining why we had traveled across the world to teach English. We had unforgettable conversations with many different people–some Christians, but many Buddhists as well.

Through this experience, I learned that the Lord’s plans are far greater than anything we can picture and we just have to continue chasing after Him to see how He wants to use us while we’re on this earth. If you told me five years ago I would head to Greensboro, New York City, and Bangkok to tell strangers that Jesus is the Way and the Truth, I would have laughed at you.

Additionally, Thailand needs your prayers. After experiencing everything first-hand, I have a newfound appreciation for the people of Thailand and the amazing full-time missionaries. I long for the chance to go back, but until then, I will talk about it as much as possible, so people see the global need for Jesus. My biggest takeaway from this summer was learning how to be bold with strangers across the world so that I might be even bolder with family and friends. 

— Olivia Young (City Project Student)

Stories from the Field: Lesvos, Greece (Part 2)

This summer a Mercy Hill City Project team traveled to Greece to work in a refugee camp alongside the Harter family. You can read a previous post from one student’s perspective on the trip here. In this post, read the Harters’ take on the trip.


You’ve seen them in the movies; the discovery of an alternate reality or another dimension, or some kind of time travel that causes a strange shift in the world as we know it; a shift for the worse. Our family experienced this firsthand.

We traveled to a place that was very similar to one of these dystopian realities. A place where wealth doesn’t determine your lot in life. A place where sharing a room with a dozen other people crammed wall-to-wall is the norm, even if it was designed for only 6 people. A place where eating nothing but rice, cheese, and beans prepared in various ways twice a day is considered nutritious. A place where one liter of water per person on a day topping out around 95-100 ˚F (35-38 ˚C) is “enough”. A place where dangerous riots and fires can and do happen at any time due to the high tensions of so many people in such a small place. A place that is surrounded and divided by high fences with razor wires. A place that cannot be completely comprehended until you are standing in the middle of it. This alternate reality was at the Moria immigrant camp on Lesvos Island in Greece. And this reality is duplicated in dozens, if not hundreds, of other locations around the world.

Our family and a small team from Mercy Hill Church in Greensboro, NC spent two weeks working in Moria camp in July. The Greek government relies on a private volunteer organization, which schedules 25+ volunteers a day to keep the camp running and organized. It is job that seemingly should be done by the Greek or EU government. We did things like general repairs, tent building, food distribution, gate monitoring, garbage collecting, housing coordination, census taking, guiding or carrying people to the doctor, and pretty much anything else that was needed. We also had the opportunity to talk to the people in the camp and listen to their struggles of leaving their war torn countries with the hopes of a better and safer life for their family. We also shared our own stories and the hope that we’ve found in Jesus.

The people coming to Moria are from all over the Middle East, Africa, and beyond. The last unofficial count in May showed that over 40 countries were represented by immigrants in Moria. They come by boat illegally from Turkey or are sent across by smugglers who charge around $1000 per person.

The people from Syria are clearly the ones that are being granted asylum and “refugee” status quicker than anyone else due to their ongoing civil war that has no clear or easy solution. The Syrians coming now are more and more women, children, and families as opposed to the prior influx of mainly single men. They arrive in shock, are taken to a temporary camp near the beach for dry clothes, food, and water, and are then taken by bus to the Moria camp. There they are put into a large tent that holds up to 100 people in bunks for a day or two in order to be processed and seen by a doctor. After that, the volunteer organization, EuroRelief, helps get them into housing where they’re added to already full iso-boxes (like shipping containers with doors and windows) or tents. They’re given a sleeping bag, a mat, a blanket, a bag of hygiene items and a set of clothes to get them started.

From there it is a long process of waiting and hoping and more waiting. Each immigrant individual or family group has an interview to determine if they qualify for asylum. This process for some can take months. And for many, they are rejected and told that they have to go back to their home country. This is especially true for some of the African countries that are considered “safe” and has been the cause of some of the riots: the apparent inequality of how people from different countries are treated. And it is true–some nationalities are given higher priority–but how else could it be done when there are such differences in why people are trying to immigrate to Europe? There really appears to be no perfect answer or way to handle the situation. Nonetheless, we were not there to provide answers, only to provide immediate love and support for people who have had their worlds turned upside down in a very short period.

What we saw in this alternate reality is that our daily struggles, concerns for well-being, health, and security are nothing in comparison to the daily lives of these people. It was a hard place to be. Just seeing the difficulty and despair and comparing that to our personal lives was overwhelming. However, we also witnessed great joy and happiness. We saw kids laughing and playing in relative safety. We observed mothers who were so thankful to be off a dangerous boat, escaping untold dangers, and who were just happy to have a place to sleep with their children.

Toward the end of our time there, we got to see a mother and two children, who had been hospitalized with scabies earlier in the week, move past their first major hurdle as they were transported to Athens to continue their journey to Sweden. We experienced something that was dangerous, beautiful, ugly, hard, and joyful all at the same time. Why? Because we believe that God called us to be at that place at that specific time. It wasn’t because we are special and more empathetic than other people. We did it out of obedience and love and because we can see the love that God has for us–and it is enough for us to share with others.

For more information on Gene & Melissa’s ministry in Europe and how to partner with them, click here

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

Lessons From The Field: Peru

My name is Kirk Needham, and I have been attending Mercy Hill Church for a little over a year now. Last February I was talking to some friends about my interest in going international to do mission work. After talking with them, they referred me to a thing called “City Project.” City Project is an 8-week mission trip through Mercy Hill where you get to spend a week in New York City, 4 weeks in Greensboro, and then 2 weeks internationally.

Peru

For the international part of City Project, I got to go to Peru. Going into this trip, myself and the five others that were going with me did not know what to expect. The only thing we had were the stories from a few people that went before us in past years. However, it seemed like everyone’s stories about Peru were different. We didn’t know what part of Peru we would be staying in, what we would be doing while we were there, what the weather would be like, or what we needed to take with us. We found out four days before we left that we were going to be teaching English and abstinence at schools in the mountainous jungles to a people group called the Yanesha. Still, there were so many things we did not know about the trip so we really had to have faith in the Lord and know that He would provide.

Once we landed in Peru, we took a ten-hour bus ride through the Andes Mountains. The landscape and scenery was unlike anything I’d ever seen before. Being able to see God’s creation and how he had strategically placed things was really cool. We saw animals and birds that you only get to see in movies. We were able to stay in the jungle for ten days visiting schools in three different villages.

Each day we would teach classes from 8-1:30, go get lunch, and then come back to the school and play games with the students in the area.

My Biggest Takeaway

One of the biggest takeaways for me was being able to see how people in a third world country went about their daily lives. I now feel so blessed to have the life that I do. It is a blessing to have food on the table every night, clean and safe water to drink, and electricity among many other things. The first Sunday we were there, we spent the entire day traveling; but on the second Sunday, we actually got to visit a church in the area. Being able to go to that service was amazing. It lasted over four hours because the people there did not want us to leave. People from miles away walked just to be there with us that day. Being able to see what God has done with that small church and the pastors leading the church was very encouraging.

The World is Hungry for the Word

On the ten-hour bus ride back down the mountains, we all looked back and felt comfort in the visible work that the Lord has been doing in Peru and the experience we were able to go through. In just two weeks, we were able to see multiple people come to Christ and surrender everything to the Lord. Many people in Peru believe in spirits and other forms of magic, which oftentimes leaves people living in fear. Because of this, it was exciting for them to hear the gospel because  that meant they wouldn’t have to live in fear and could have comfort in the Lord. Looking back, I am able to see how open people are to the gospel and how badly they want to hear the Word–they just need people like us to come and share. That opportunity is the only thing stopping them from becoming Christians, so the responsibility falls on those of us who are already Christians to go spread the Word and bear fruit. I would encourage anyone who is thinking about doing something like this—whether going to Peru or another country—to just do it. Even starting here in the United States is significant! There are people all around the world that need to hear the gospel.

Kirk Needham (City Project Student)

Introducing Our New Student Director: Ronald Redmond

People are very important to the success of any organization. That much is obvious.  However, leadership is not about simply putting any person in charge; it’s about identifying the right person for the right job and then letting them run with their passion and skill. Jim Collins, in his legendary work Good to Great says, “Great vision without great people won’t come to fruition.”

At Mercy Hill, people are the mission. And to see the mission fulfilled, we know we need great people. That is why I could not be more excited about one of our newest staff additions. Back in July we welcomed Ronald Redmond to the Mercy Hill staff team.  Ronald has stepped into our Mercy Hill Student Director position. I had the chance to sit down with Ronald and ask him a few questions about life and about student ministry.


 

Tell us a little bit about yourself…

I am a proud husband and proud poppa. My wife Anali and I are married with four kids.  Our kids names go I, J, K, L (Ilana, Josiah, Karina, Lydia), and we don’t plan on making it to Z. I grew up in Greenville, NCMercy Hill Church - Staff - Ronald Redmond and went to Chapel Hill for undergrad. Once I graduated from Chapel Hill, I moved to Greensboro.

What are some of your hobbies and passions?

I’m hugely passionate about music. I’ve been told several times that when I’m talking it sounds like I’m rapping. I do rap. When I was a schoolteacher I would take popular songs of the day and make them about math.  

There’s a rumor that you’re pretty good at PS4…

I haven’t played since I took the position at Mercy Hill. I went cold turkey. But I would challenge any student to a game of NBA2k. Anyone who would want to challenge me . . . let’s do it.

What did you do before MH?

For the last seven years I taught in the public school. I taught five years of 6th grade math  at Jackson Middle. I taught 2 years at Cornerstone Charter Academy.

How has your teaching experience prepared you for ministry?

Teaching has given me a passion for partnering with parents. At Jackson Middle there was no parental support; while at Cornerstone there was a lot. It showed me how powerful it was for a student’s success to have the parents involved. As a teacher, I couldn’t overcompensate for what a student lacked at home; so, it made it vital to partner with families to have the greatest impact on students.

Why do you love student ministry?

I avoided any involvement in student ministry prior to taking this role because I taught students Monday through Friday and then went home to my kids. Two years ago I went on a missions trip to the Dominican Republic, and I got to lead a Kids Week. While I was there I was teaching the Bible to students, and I absolutely loved it. Fast forward to the launch of our Clifton Road Campus. I started teaching at the Clifton Campus in the kids ministry, and it became a highlight of my week. This created a passion for students.   Student ministry for me has bridged a lot of my passions—a passion for students, a passion for teaching, and a love for Jesus.

What are you hoping to see this year in MH Students?

I have a desire to partner with families. As a church and as a student ministry, we want to come alongside of parents, connect with them, and build meaningful relationships with them. I desire to see a parent partnership where Mercy Hill student ministry is providing opportunities to apply the gospel with students but also include parents to equip them on how to engage their student on issues of the day and how the gospel speaks to those.

I also desire to see more students connected. There’s a lot more students at Mercy Hill who are not currently connected to our student ministry. I have a desire to see more students plug-in because what we’re trying to do in student ministry here at Mercy Hill is help students to see how the gospel applies to their life right now.

One of my dreams is to see students come through our student ministry and plug directly into college ministry as growing disciples of Jesus. I’ve talked to our college director about this, and we want to train students as they come through our student ministry to understand what it means to leverage their college experience for the gospel. We want to see students who are shaped and molded by the gospel and understand how to live on mission as they transition into college.

Why should a student be a part of MH students?

We don’t see student ministry as a replacement for church. What we want to do is take what students are learning in the sermon each week and help them apply it to their context right now. “What does this mean for me as an athlete on my sports team,” or “What does this mean for whatever extracurricular activities?” We want to take the truths of what they’re learning and directly apply it to their lives and to live on mission.

We’re also going to have a ton of fun in the process. The student ministry team and I put a ton of effort into preparing a fun experience for our students. The most exciting life a student can live is a life lived for Jesus. We want our weekly gathering and all the events we do to reflect this reality.


If you’re a student and have not yet connected to MH Students, come join us for our Fall launch on Sunday night, August 27th. For more information about our student ministry please visit our MH Student page. And to contact Ronald you can email him at rredmond@mercyhillgso.com

Can Short-term Teams Really Maximize Long-term Ministry?

When it comes to short-term mission trips, a driving conviction we hold is to do short-term trips with the long-term in view. When it comes to short-term mission trips, a driving conviction we hold   is to do short-term trips with the long-term in view. 

“Can short-term teams really maximize long-term ministry?” was a question recently raised by Carlos and Meredith Block, our long-term field partners who live in Peru. This year, Mercy Hill has sent two short-term teams, one short-term intern, and will send another team in September to work with them. Read how the Block’s answer their own question in their most recent newsletter:


Our answer is YES, but ministry effectiveness is directly related to several factors:

Pre-trip preparation: Communication with team on site, praying together, getting to know one another, preparing to teach, and planning outreach events sets teams up for effective ministry. 

Attitude: An attitude of service and flexibility focused on long term relationships and goals is the “being” behind the “doing.”

Ministry: Trusting the Lord and giving Him the glory in all things (even scary and uncomfortable situations) can yield fruit that will last. 

Three teams have joined us since we wrote two months ago, and two more are on the way! These friends demonstrated the above qualities, and as the Lord worked, great things happened.

Mercy Hill Church

Mercy Hill (NC) team visited an indigenous school. Casey, John, Caroline and Jack came well prepared to teach in K-12 for four days. Students heard the Genesis-Jesus story, as well as learning their colors in English. The week ended with a pinning ceremony for class officers, a special school supplies gift for each student, and a trip to the river.

Northeast Bible Church

Part of the Northeast Bible team (TX) built the second floor on the first training center building, while others shared in schools, with local women’s groups, and kids’ clubs. They had a special opportunity to visit a community affected by recent flooding. The team was overwhelmed by their hospitality and encouraged them in their rebuilding process.

Mercy Hill – City Project

Mercy Hill’s City Project College Team served for ten days in three high schools, sharing about Biblical Sexuality and using English to build bridges. They had the unique opportunity to be a part of Achievement Day as indigenous students shared what they’d learned this semester. This was yet another opportunity to plant more seeds and pray for future fruit.

How have teams helped us?

In Numbers: There are only two of us at the moment! Teams bring new faces, energy, and opportunities to introduce our indigenous friends to believers both from the US and other parts of Peru giving a broader picture of the body of Christ.

Reaching Children: Teams who work with youth show their love by spending time with them, having fun and sharing truth.

Encouragement: The indigenous often feel isolated and invisible, but when visitors come, they feel encouraged and affirmed, and their hospitality shines.

Reaching High schoolers: “You attract what you are.” Younger testimonies of salvation and life with Christ have a unique impact in school settings. Women connect with women, as do the men on the construction site.

Mobilizing Prayer: As the Brooke Fraser song says, “now that I have seen, I am responsible.”

Strengthening the Indigenous Church: All of this outreach is planting seeds to mobilize the indigenous church to extend His Kingdom. 


Are you next? 

Mercy Hill is committed to sending teams and individuals to partner with the Blocks to make disciples among the indigenous people of Peru. It’s not too late for women of Mercy Hill to go with us as we train and encourage the indigenous natives this September. 

Bryan Miller (Connections/Missions Director)

Lessons From The Field: India

To close out our summer doing City Project–an 8-week long internship and training series designed to teach college students how to share the gospel and make disciples–we headed out on our international trips and my team was headed for India!

After over a full day of travel, we finally arrived and began embracing the culture we were going to be a part of for two weeks. Lots of things were new and different: the food was spicier (so spicy one of our team members got 4 nosebleeds while we were there), the cows roamed free all through the street, and there seemed to be no rules when it came to driving. Even though we were thousands of miles away from home, two things were the same, and always will be the same no matter where we go: God’s desire to seek and save the lost and His power to do so.

I had never been a part of any kind of international missions trip before and when I think about my perspective before going to India, I see now that I didn’t fully understand God’s global mission. Until we went to India I unconsciously viewed God as the “God of the United States,” not as the God of the universe. But the truth is there is no difference in God’s power when it comes to saving me or saving an Indian woman. We are both just as dead in our sins and in equally desperate need of a savior.

We explored the city on our first full day, which brought us to the largest Muslim mosque in Asia. We joined a group of about 15 Hindu girls and our leader, Greta, quickly moved the conversation in a spiritual direction. Before I knew it, she said, “Madison, do you want to share with them what we believe?” I was totally thrown off guard but this is what the entire summer had prepared me for, so I shared the gospel with them. Being our first day and first encounter, it really gave me the confidence I needed to share with any woman I came into contact with over the next two weeks. We would later visit museums, temples, malls, and parks–seeking out people to talk to and share with.

Each morning we took turns leading devotions for our team and when it was my turn, I shared Psalm 40, which is probably my favorite passage in the Bible. I really harped on verse 10 which says “I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart; I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness from the great congregation.” I said that when we get on the plane to go home, when our two weeks there were finished, I wanted us to be able to look back and confidently declare this verse over our time in India–that we held nothing back and shared the gospel every chance we got. This verse became our marching orders and spurred us on to do just that. By the grace of God, our team shared with over 100 people, most of whom had never heard the gospel before. Praise God!

Before this trip, my view of God wasn’t big enough. After hearing of the miracles He is doing in India, I know now that my prayers weren’t big enough either. We claim to believe in a God who is all-powerful, but if we don’t pray or act as if He is, we aren’t viewing Him rightly and we’re robbing Him of glory He deserves. Not only is God moving in mighty ways in India, but He was also moving through the other City Project teams in Peru, Greece, Thailand, and Spain.

God desires to make disciples of all nations, and we’re called in Matthew 28 to go and join Him on this mission. I can do that on my college campus and I can do that in another country. The stories we have from our time abroad are endless, but the common theme between them all is simply this: God is the faithful, loving, all powerful Creator of the universe and He is moving. 

— Madison Yates (City Project Student)

There is No Shame in Celebrating

In our church stream, there is a sentiment that exists that we should praise God for every success we see and consider ourselves to be worthless specimens who are of no use. This is true, but it is also not the full biblical picture.

Paul Only Boasts in the Cross; but also . . .

There was no Christian (outside of Jesus) who balanced the joy of the work of his own hands with a true understanding that it is God who empowered it all like Paul. What is his key to striking the proper balance? Grace. It is true that Paul said things like this: “But as for me, I will never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal. 6:14a). This tends to be our default position, and although we know it shouldn’t, it can stifle the celebration of accomplishments that churches like Mercy Hill have seen. “Am I celebrating with the right heart and intentions?” “I won’t celebrate too hard just in case I might be celebrating my part in it.” There is some truth and commendation to thinking like that but, the true picture can set us free to celebrate.

Paul said this about the church in Thessalonica who was extremely receptive to the truth of the gospel that he preached: “For who is our hope or joy or crown of boasting in the presence of our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? Indeed you are our glory and joy!” (1 Thess. 2:19-20). Wait. I thought he said that he wouldn’t boast about anything except the cross of Christ? But if we look carefully, we will see the distinction. He says that the Thessalonian Christians are his crown of boasting. A crown is something that is received from Jesus. He can boast in his work among the faithful Thessalonian church because God, through his grace, gave to Paul, as a gift, the fruitfulness of his ministry. “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of [the other apostles], yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me” (1 Cor. 15:10). Woah, Paul. It sounds like he’s boasting about himself against the other apostles, but Paul is saying this, “Every measure of grace the Lord gave me, I’ve been faithful with (by his grace).” Every bit of the success of his ministry was chalked up to God’s grace, but he considered it a gift from God that he could take joy in and celebrate his work, even in the presence of Christ . . . because God.

Celebrating like Paul

As we come to our 5-year anniversary and consider the success Mercy Hill has had in ministry, know that God has given us the gift of being able to celebrate what his grace has brought through our hands. The early Christians were not afraid of celebrating numbers: “So those who accepted his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand people were added to them” (Acts 2:41). It was God who added the three thousand to their number, but he did it through Peter’s preaching.

Consider the things we’ve seen. I remember coming to the very first Mercy Hill meeting in Greensboro held in Pastor Andrew’s backyard. There were about 50 people there. Now, we see well over 2,000 people attend our services every week. We met our goal of seeing 500 people baptized before the 5-year mark, and we are very close to seeing our goals of 100 Community Groups launched and 1500 people come through the Weekender. These numbers represent stories. The 500 baptisms represent 500 people whose saving faith in Jesus and his gospel led them to choose following him over the world. The 100 Community Groups launched will represent 100 small groups in which a large portion of our weekly attendance are learning how to be disciples and training others to be disciples. The 1500 people coming through the Weekender represent people who are understanding the importance of the local church and God’s plan for it.

Think about everything we’ve seen happen in missions. We’ve developed strategic partnerships with ministries in the Triad (Hannah’s Haven, Backpack Beginnings, Hope Academy, Greensboro Pregnancy Care Center, Jackson Middle School). These ministries have their finger on the pulse of the needs of our community and know best how to serve them. Our partnership with them aid these ministries tremendously in providing a consistent presence of service in our community.

Think about the churches we’ve helped plant in Orlando (Grace Alive), Charlotte (Mercy Church), LA (Reach Fellowship), The Bridge (Wilmington), and Jesus Our Redeemer (Baltimore); and also, the churches and missionaries we’ve partnered with internationally. These countries include South Asia and Peru. Because of the grace given to us by God, we can celebrate that these cities and countries now have more of a consistent gospel presence, and some that have a gospel presence for the first time. God is saving people through these partnerships.

I could go on and on talking about our short-term trips to the DR and the excellent work our middle school, high school, and college ministries have done in getting teens and young adults into the mission fields and leveraging this important time in their lives for Jesus. The list goes on.

Mercy Hill, the point is these things happen because God, through his grace, has gifted us with people who want to serve, want to live their lives on mission, and who want to be radically generous. We can take joy in and celebrate what God is doing through our hands. It is all him, but he gives us the ability to celebrate our work. We’re not ashamed to celebrate our 5-year anniversary; rather, like Pastor Andrew says, “We praise God and ask for more.”

Alex Nolette (Community Groups/Equip Coordinator)

Putting “Y’all” Back in the Bible

We live in a very individualistic culture. This puts us at somewhat of a disadvantage when reading the Bible because the Bible was written to a collectivist culture. A society defined as collectivistic is a society who thinks in terms of the whole. Where in America we often think about what we can do to further our own prosperity or that of our closest family, a collectivist culture is more inclined to think about how their actions will affect the whole community. “We” is more often the default mindset than “I.”

We aren’t making things very easy on ourselves when English speakers translate the Bible. You see, Hebrew and Greek have a plural form of the word “you.” In Greek, for example, the singular form of you is σύ (su) and the plural is ὑμεῖς (humeis). You don’t need to be a Greek scholar to see that these are completely different words. Do you know what the two are in English? You. We have the same word for both singular and plural. Therefore, particularly in America, different regions have developed different slang terms for the plural you. Where I’m from up north, it’s “you guys.” In the Pittsburgh area, it’s “yinz.” And we all know what it is here in the South: “Y’all.”

Making a Mess of the Situation

So, what happens when an American, who was brought up in America’s individualistic culture, reads the Bible in English? They tend to read the plural you in a singular way, and this is why many in the West think they don’t need to be a part of a local church. They think they can have their own private Christianity; a personal “agreement” with God. This is absolutely foreign to the New Testament. Most of Paul’s letters were written to specific local churches (e.g. 1 Corinthians is written to the church in Corinth and Philippians is written to the church in Philippi) or a group of local churches in a certain region (e.g. Galatians is written to the churches in Galatia). But even when a letter is written to a person like Philemon, Timothy, or Titus, participation in the local church is assumed: “To Philemon our dear friend and coworker, to Apphia our sister, to Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church that meets in your home . . . I have great joy and encouragement from your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, brother” (Philemon 1:1,7). We need to get back to reading our “you” as “y’all”. We need to remember that the local church is designed by God to be how the body of Christ (i.e. all Christians) grows.

The Local Church as God’s Means of Christian Growth

Paul in Ephesians says, “And he himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, equipping the saints for the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into maturity with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness” (vs. 11-13). If you are not in a continual relationship with your brothers and sisters in the local church and submitting to the pastors and teachers, then you are cutting yourself off from God’s number one tool for increased faith and holiness of life. Not to mention that God gives gifts by the Holy Spirit specifically for the common good of the local church (1 Cor. 12:7). A gift given that’s used outside the church is a distorted and polluted gift. And finally, with all the “one another” statements in Scripture (e.g. love one another, pray for one another, admonish one another, serve one another, build one another up), to not be involved in the local church means disobedience. The author of Hebrews puts it plainly: “And let us watch out for one another to provoke love and good works, not neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25).

Become a part of “Y’all” at Mercy Hill

We make learning how to get meaningfully involved in Mercy Hill very easy. We invite you to come to the Weekender, where you’ll learn about the church (our story, values, goals, theology) and you’ll learn the opportunities we have for you to participate in the body of Christ at Mercy Hill. You’ll even get the opportunity to shadow a serve team that weekend and get your feet wet. The Weekender is where those who are connected to the crowd get committed to the family. If you have never been to the Weekender, then it is for you! Learn more and sign-up for our August 18-20 Weekender today at mercyhillgso.com/weekender

— Alex Nolette (Community Groups/Equip Coordinator)