Your Ash Wednesday Stories

Last week I shared a little about our Ash Wednesday Experience, since then I’ve received several stories from people who went through the experience. I trust you will be encouraged.

We had over 250 people begin the Lenten season by slowing down and intentionally reflect on the love and sacrifice that Jesus made as they participated in our Ash Wednesday Experience. I’d like to share some of the stories shared with us while also inviting you to be intentional to slow your own pace down of life and reflect on your faith journey. We also encourage you to join us during our Lent Sermon series – The Simple Life.

“I just wanted to say thank you for the Ash Wednesday reminder! My daughter and I had a WONDERFUL experience together! So amazing to share Jesus with your little one when they start to understand. Thank you for sharing this journey with us!”

“What a wonderful time we had at our Ash Wednesday Experience! The peaceful reflection was incredible and so eye opening. I wanted to share a few things I heard from people yesterday.”

“Thank you so much for this. It was deeper than any Ash Wednesday mass I have ever been to.”

“So powerful and heartfelt event.”

“I haven’t cried while praying in many years. Tonight I felt the Holy Spirit touch my soul.”

“At first I wasn’t sure about having Ashes placed on my forehead, but as I participated in that station it become a very meaningful part of gaining and understand of Lent and the sacrifice Jesus made for me. I’m glad I took the time.”

“I didn’t want to come but my son’s really wanted to. We usually do mass, but this experience was deep and yet simple for my boys to truly understand the meaning of Ash Wednesday.”

“This experience made me feel close to God. I believe that Ash Wednesday should be personal to each person and you all conquered that.”

“I will always come here for Ash Wednesday.”

“Mommy, at every stop I cried.” “Really son, why?” “Because every time you read that board thing my heart felt like it was burning and I knew it was Jesus. Can we do it again tomorrow?”

Thank you everybody who submitted their stories.

Student Ministry Remodel

Our Student Ministry room was just updated with new carpet and paint. Thank you for all those who contributed to that. Now we have come up with a list of upgrades the room could really use. Please consider donating.

Student Ministry Room Remodel Phase II

  1. Office Furniture – Desk, Bookshelves, Tables, Décor $1,000
  2. (2) TV Screens for the Youth Room – $500 each
  3. Sound System Upgrade – Speakers, Braces, Cables, $800
  4. New Computer for Middle School Room Slides $600
  5. Wood backdrop for Stage in High School Room $600
  6. Wood Backdrop for Stage in Middle School Room $400
  7. Metal Sheets Décor for Hallway pictures. $400

Total $4,800

Thank you for your consideration

The 7 Year Journey

Although you have heard bits and pieces of my story over the past 3+ years, I thought it would be helpful for me to allow you into my journey a little more. I shared about this on Sunday yet I wanted to invite you into some reflections about life and ministry that I’ve been processing this season.

November 4th makes it seven years that Bonnie, my wife of 20 years, passed on to the other side of eternity. As most could expect it was a challenging few weeks prior to her passing. In early October of that year (2009) my dad passed away. I wasn’t able to attend his funeral because of the declining health of Bonnie. I also had the painfully emotional conversation with McKenzie (she had just turned 16) to let here know there was nothing more the doctors could do for mom and that our time with her is going to be much shorter than we would hope for.

7-year-journeyWithin a couple of days of that conversation with McKenzie, Bonnie was admitted into Hospice care, a lovely home within 15 minutes from where we lived. For me, the decision was easy that I needed their assistance to give Bonnie the best care she could receive while also caring for McKenzie and holding down my job. Friends had been flying in for a few weeks and it was during those weeks that the richness of authentic deep friendships, which had been formed over the years, became an integral part of our journey. Some of them spent the night with Bonnie in the hospital, others hung out and ran errands and tried to keep things manageable at home for us. I have no idea what they must have thought when they kissed Bonnie and said ‘see you later’ as they returned to Michigan knowing that they would not see Bonnie again until eternity. Surprisingly, our lives remain enriched with some of our newest friends during those years who have remained part of our lives ever since.

For the 7th Anniversary of Bonnie’s promotion, I’ll again be spending time with McKenzie. I’ve also been intentional in thinking through the impact that Bonnie’s death has made on my life as a follower of Jesus, Dad and Pastor.

mckenzie-juno
I’ll start with maybe the more obvious:

  • Life is short! We really have no idea when our last breath might be. So as the saying goes, slow down enough to smell the flowers and enjoy the simple blessings that we often take for granted – which include our relationships with friends and family. Living and moving people into ‘community’ remains a key value for me.
  • Even though I’m a documented and card carrying ‘extrovert’, I’ve noticed that since Bonnie’s promotion, I regain energy and appreciate more alone time, even seven years later. Yet, there is truth to having more time available for ministry since I’m an empty nester. No doubt I can devote a lot more of my time emotion and energy to a job that I love and feel privileged to be a part of (serving in Southern CA, doesn’t hurt either :).
  • I still need to be intentional about my own self-care. As a ‘single again’ person, I’ve noticed that I don’t need as much ‘stuff’ (some call it character) in my home or life. The more I have, the more I have to move around all the time. Traveling lighter in life really is so much less stressful, and it allows you the freedom to move easier.
  • I’ve learned to be more generous. Frankly, funds were very limited during most of the 11 years that Bonnie had cancer. Yet the Lord provided! We had a beautiful home, took wonderful vacations and all of our needs were met, but our savings and investments were being deflected to the nontraditional protocol of fighting cancer and the costs not covered by insurance. When we lived in Michigan someone left an envelope in our mailbox with cash in it. That gift met some very real needs as well as provided McKenzie and Bonnie with some ‘paid for’ Christmas gifts (I have this thing about charging anything). Today, I still have the envelope in my office – as a reminder of God’s faithfulness. I travel more than I would have before (OK so mostly it’s to Michigan and Phoenix) and I’m reminded that we really don’t know what the future is, so enjoy life, invest in relationships and live a life of purpose.

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  • I realized that even though I was gainfully employed, the medical health care (both traditional and homeopathic) and associated costs were adding up quickly. I tried to refinance the house and I worked all the ‘interest-free’ charge cards as far as I could, yet it became obvious that this fight was about to win when it came to our investments and retirement accounts (and I would do the entire thing again if I had to). A lessoned learned is to be careful not to judge people by appearances. We seldom know the ‘back story’. Bonnie used to say, “Everyone has a story”.
  • For most of my adult life, I’ve been blessed beyond measure with numerous significant relationships… from my college days to working at Western Michigan University and to most of the churches I’ve been honored to serve. I have several brothers from another mother (although they may not want to admit it at times) in my life! The relationship with Diane, Bonnie’s sister, and her family remains strong and continues to grow. No doubt we all still feel the gap caused by Bonnie’s absence, yet her death has not put a wedge in our relationships (I still have the self-proclaimed title of favorite Uncle). Authentic community continues to be a main ingredient for life.
  • Bonnie’s death has reminded me that it’s too easy for people to get caught up with their own family, events and work responsibilities where they barely have enough time, energy or skills to make new and develop deeper friendships. As I have shared and talked with numerous pastors concerning this observation, while at the surface may be a Southern CA challenge, is apparently widespread among many congregations, nationwide. Again a lifestyle of authentic community was essential 7 years ago and remains a key element to being a follower of Jesus.

note-from-mckenzieI was singing to Bonnie, holding her hand when her heart monitor flat lined. I realized she was gone, (I prefer the word promoted). Our relationship was changed immediately. In fact as cold as it sounds, it was over. I was no longer married. McKenzie no longer had a mom. I was a single Dad, Diane’s (Bonnie’s sister) best friend was gone. Many others felt the void of a thoughtful, gracious, kind friend. For hundreds of people, everything changed on this side of eternity.

At that moment, my heart’s desire was confirmed, even more, to be urgently focused on those who don’t know Jesus. If Bonnie had not opened her heart to Jesus then at 9:40pm on November 4th, she would have started an eternity with Satan, versus being in the presence of the God who created her, loved her and gave His life for her. She really was ‘in a better place’, although I didn’t need to hear that from anyone at the moment. Without a doubt, I’m confident in her eternal destination, yet her absence continues to be felt.

Human nature testifies to the reality that most people don’t change until an emotionally significant event enters their life. I had several at this point in my life; my parents divorce, my mom’s death when I was 25, my wedding, education & changing careers, the adoption of McKenzie and now, unfortunately, the death of my bride.

It’s during this moment I was reminded again, that the church needs to be more of a hospital for the wounded, hurting, broken and godless people became even more important to me. Death is real and it will knock on all of our doors of all of our lives sooner or later, rich or poor, whether we are ready or not, whether we deserve it or not, no matter what age!

Bonnie’s passing has raised a few questions in my mind and heart as it comes to ministry. Such as:

  • I wonder how hurt the heart of the Father must be, to witness so much ‘off mission’ distractions and conversations.
  • Why do we spend so much energy on the little things in life – when there are so many of our friends and neighbors and relatives who remain clueless about what it means to love and follow Jesus with your heart and soul?
  • Why do so many people separate their faith from their friends, jobs, schools, and keep it confined to a Sunday only experience?
  • Why are so many people living busy lives, void of the ‘community’ God intended them to live in?

For New Life Community Church, while our methods to reach the lost have changed over the years (and will continue to change), difficult decisions have been made to look for and reach people far from Jesus, we:

  • changed locations
  • changed our name
  • changed the language of the church service
  • changed the musical instruments
  • changed our style
  • changed our leadership structure

The exciting truth is that for 85 years New Life has followed the heart of God and has had a vision for the lost sheep.

My passion is to continue to lead us in that Biblical vision, to do whatever I can, whatever we can, to find the lost sheep. Throughout church history, there will be part of the 99 sheep who don’t like this or that and who feel they have a better way to ‘do something’. Although there is always the temptation to be a sheep pleaser, God has called us as the church, and myself as one of your pastors to put it all out there for those who don’t know Jesus. It’s easy to forget that God calls each of us to be on ‘the lookout’, yet our belief that God empowers us all to do His work (the priesthood of all believers) is a reminder that we are all called to be looking for and going after the lost sheep.

Our next season of ministry will be exciting as together we move forward making ourselves available to be led by God, changed by the Holy Spirit and looking and praying for the lost…. all for His glory.

God has used New Life in some incredible ways, and God will continue to use us in the years ahead. Let’s allow God’s word to transform our hearts and lives so God can use us to be agents of his healing and ambassadors of his love to a community and world who desperately need His faith, hope and love.

“I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent”

Luke 15:7.

Easter Services

You are invited to celebrate Easter weekend with us at New Life Community Church. There is not a more important moment in history than the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Come celebrate these life changing events with us in our Good Friday and Easter Sunday services.

Good Friday

On March 25, at 7:00 PM in the Worship Center we reflect and remember the significance of Good Friday. At this family friendly gathering you’ll experience the combining of several elements into one worship service that will engage your mind and heart as we remember the sacrifice Jesus made for us.

Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday begins with our Sunrise Service at 7 AM (in the back corner of our property). We’ll supply chairs, coffee and donuts. Our Easter celebration starts at 9:30 AM (doors open at 9:00 AM).

No matter who you are we invite you to join us for our Easter Celebration this year!

Fill It Up – Food Drive

Connect, serve & eat (the New Life way of saying thanks!), as we partner with the Artesia-Cerritos Post Office Food Drive on Saturday May 9th. Together we will fill up the weekly Food Distribution’s storehouse for months to come!

Together we receive 4-5 TONS of food at this annual event and need  crews to help us get it from the Post Office to New Life, then begin the sorting process.

 

Info about the food distribution at New Life Community Church

For over six years, New Life has operated a Saturday morning food distribution that helps to feed 150-200 families from the wider Artesia-Cerritos area each week. The food distribution relies heavily on the Food Bank of Southern California, but the amount of food available from the Food Bank sometimes dwindles just as community need rises. Because of this, to keep the grocery bags we give out full, we also depend on the generous donations of schools, businesses, organizations and individuals such as yourself, whether through tax- deductible financial gifts or by organizing food drives. The Artesia-Cerritos Post Office is one such significant partner.

Info about the Post Office food drive

Every second Saturday in May, letter carriers in more than 10,000 cities and towns across America collect the goodness and compassion of their postal customers, who participate in the NALC Stamp Out Hunger National Food Drive — the largest one-day food drive in the nation.To donate, just place a box or can of non-perishable food next to your mailbox before your letter carrier delivers mail on the second Saturday in May. The carrier will take your donations to the Post Office, and the New Life teams will make sure your donations go directly to helping neighbors in need.

Thanksgiving Food Drive

outreach-food-drive

Since 2009 New Life Community Church has operated a weekly Saturday morning food distribution to help feed 150-200 families in need.

This Fall we are conducting a Thanksgiving Food Drive to make sure none of our neighbors goes hungry during the holidays.

Anytime from October 26th through November 17th, you can help by donating non-perishable holiday foods along with everyday food items like tuna and cereal. You can download the need list here. Donations are accepted at NLCC Monday through Friday, 9:30am to 4:30pm or during the regular 9:30am Sunday morning service.

For large donations requiring help getting it to New Life, please contact Joanne Verhoeven, randyjoanne@yahoo.com.

If you have any other questions regarding the food drive, please contact Brenna Rubio, brennar@nl-cc.org.

It’s Party Time

october-update

This is an update from our Lead Pastor, Juno Smalley.

If you’ve been with us during recent Sunday services you know that “It’s party time!” This is a reminder of the invitation to you, our church members, to host a neighborhood Block Party (or gathering of some kind). The weekend is coming soon! Don’t let fear or embarrassment stop you from taking a step to “Love your Neighbor.” Click here so we can support you as you host a party.

The Pumpkin Bash

The second opportunity is our Pumpkin Bash. Our Pumpkin Bash remains a huge outreach event for our community. We had a record crowd last year in attendance and vehicles that we decorated for Trunk or Treat. We would love to have you join in decorating your car, truck, SUV, bicycle, etc. Contact Tina if you would like to have a vehicle in the Trunk or Treat at tinat@nl-cc.org.

Sunday Programming Update

I also wanted to share a decision that came after weeks of praying and discerning what is best for the next steps of New Life when it comes to reaching those not yet here.

I have met with the choir and shared that the choir, as we know it, will no longer be sharing in the Sunday services. The choir has had a great ministry and after much thought and prayer, it was decided that there might be a better place(s) for them to use their gifts.

No doubt we are thankful for the many years of service and sacrifice the choir has contributed to New Life. We love the people in the choir, their hearts and their willingness to share. We look forward to special events or different seasons or other places that we might be able to help reinforce the Good News with the help of the choir or some of it’s members.

Responding to Change

Leadership decisions are not always easy or popular. I’m realistic to know that the choir decision will not make everyone happy. I’m sure you are aware that most decisions don’t make everyone happy, especially when it affects their friends. I’m asking and confident that you will all respond in a Christ-like manner as you process this decision, and that we will continue to partner with each other and with God to be New Life for the City.

One of the leaders in the choir emailed me this week and shared…”Hopefully the church will understand and accept this decision and understand that the ‘CHOIR’ is honoring this decision and will find other ways to serve. We as the choir can certainly help the congregation sing louder and participate more in each service.”

The history of New Life is rich with a desire and practical expressions to reach the un-churched and those not here yet. I pray our heart will continue to reflect God’s heart as we all want to make the largest impact in our community that we can.

Growth at New Life

I am hearing more and more stories about people checking out New Life and trying to figure out their next steps in their spiritual journey. Our attendance has increased by almost 20% over the last two years. People are returning and joining with New Life to partner with us in our efforts to make a difference. Thanks for all you are doing by prayer for our church, by inviting your friends and family to visit, and by creating a place where people can find new life in Christ.

Praying for you as we together, Love God and Love our Neighbor. Have a great weekend.

Peace,

Juno

October is Here

October is here and we are already planning for Christmas and our fall events which we hope will continue to bring the “not yet here” to New Life. This month, I’ll reflect a little and share some upcoming key dates and times.

Staff Updates

As you know, this summer Mark Lohman joined our staff. In September, we celebrated with Mark as he was ordained by the Classis as a Commissioned Pastor, so his title is now Associate Pastor. It’s exciting to see how God has brought Mark here and will be using him to support our Life Groups, Adult Ministries, Benevolence, Men’s and Women’s events, and Sports Ministries. Mark, as the rest of the church, is focusing on helping those not yet here to be connected and to take another step in their spiritual journey.

Ray Vander Mooren continues to do an outstanding job in lining up appropriate care to those at NLCC with the assistance from staff, Ministering Elders, and Life Group Leaders. Remember your connection to community is the primary care source you’ll be receiving from ‘the church’, so call the office if you are looking for a place to connect.

Ministry Updates

VBS and Summer Camp have both been completed and were successful in providing opportunities for children to have fun and be in an environment that reinforces faith in Jesus. Alpha is off to a great session with students and adults both experiencing a safe place to ask questions and explore their faith. Children’s Ministry is doing more and more to teach our children the truths of Scripture while also empowering parents as they parent.

Several classrooms, the Chapel and kitchen hallway have all experienced facelifts. We are finishing up the chapel with acoustical tiles. The Multi-purpose room and the Fireside room are on deck as the Lord provides money for carpeting and paint. As of the end of September, giving for the year is only $2,386 below the approved budget. A year ago we were $43,122 below. WOW – THANK YOU for your financial partnership as we move forward in making disciples and reaching those not yet here.

Coming Up at New Life

You’ll want to mark your calendar for the upcoming events and be praying for them now. We will share additional information later, but we wanted you to know some dates upfront.

  • Pumpkin Bash – Friday, Oct. 24 @ 6:00
  • Food Drive – Oct. 27 to Nov. 17
  • Blood Drive – Sunday, Nov. 2
  • Baptisms and Confirmation of Faith – Sunday, Nov. 16
  • Congregational Meeting and lunch – Sunday, Nov. 23 @ 11:00 AM – Activity Center
  • Thanksgiving Eve Service (Simply Thankful) – Wednesday, Nov. 26 @ 7:00 PM
  • Women’s Night, Advent by Candlelight, Monday, Dec. 1 @ 7:00 PM
  • Alternative Gift Fair – Sunday, Dec. 7
  • Bonner Singers with full Orchestra – Thursday, Dec. 4 @ 7:30 PM
  • Christmas Eve Candlelight Services @ 4:30 & 7:00 PM – identical services

Current Series Update

We are in the Art of Neighboring series, and I trust you are praying for ways and opportunities to meet your neighbors and that strangers will turn to acquaintances and then to friends. May God give you the courage to knock on a door, have a conversation and provide ways for us all to Love God & Love Our Neighbor. We will not be the same individually and as a church, as we become intentional in loving the people God has placed next to us.