4 Days in Detroit, 2014

It’s a fantastic blend of summer youth camp and a missions trip.
We call it “4Days.”
Last week, teenagers & leaders from various places in Michigan,
Kansas and Iowa joined us in Detroit.
-The mornings provided excellent teaching for the students;
adult leaders were part of a mentorship session at the same time.

– Lunch was served by lovely volunteers from here in Detroit
and all the way from north Chicagoland!

– Teams went into several parks near our church building and
played games, told stories & testimonies, painted faces, laughed,
danced hugged, hosted a three day 3 vs. 3 soccer tournament, & we all made
friends with the lovely people in Southwest Detroit.

– After enjoying dinner at one of the glorious Detroit restaurants
(and I am NOT being sarcastic! We have great ones), everyone
met back at the building to have a meaningful evening service of
ministry, growth & change through the Holy Spirit.
Chilly spoke the 1st & 4th evenings, Dave Barringer & Kevin Berry
on nights two and three. Powerful, specific, life-changing!

The final evening ended with a service in the park and a number
of our neighbors accepted Jesus as their Savior & Lord! (One of those
new friends attended Courage Church Sunday morning and brought all
of her family!!!! Praise Jesus!)

Much of last week I happily captured on our Courage Church instagram,
so I didn’t have much opportunity to post things in my own instagram.
So now I will share some pictures with you…
I mean… I will bombard you with photos from last week!
(Hershal made an appearance in the park, too… but I didn’t get
a picture of that. Maybe I’ll track one down cuz I know my Mom
(and a few of you) would like to see his crazy face!

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Claudia & Stephanie (the wonderful lunch ladies) finishing out our week by eating Taco Truck food in the McDonald's play land with our kids!

Claudia & Stephanie (the wonderful lunch ladies) finishing out our week by eating Taco Truck food in the McDonald’s play land with our kids!

What a wonderful week! People met Jesus, we all enjoyed each other’s company and
lives (including everyone who attended) were changed!
Thank you to everyone who came, prayed, provided financing, etc!

Not sure how to say this…

For over a week I’ve written this post in my head, crumpled it up
and tossed it aside. I’m going crazy to say it… but how?
Nothing creative enough has risen to the surface of my brain.
Nothing deep enough as been able to form itself into words.
How do I say this?
I’ll just jump in and say, “OH MY WORD! THANK YOU!”

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A week & a half ago my husband spent the weekend as a
guest of Celebration Christian Center in Midland, Mi…
and our family was invited to joined him. From the time
we set down a suitcase they poured giant heaps of kindness all over us!

– welcome notes
– huge bag of snacks
– lovely hotel room
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– swimming pool (shaped like the state of Michigan!)
– yummy meals in restaurants
– spending money to “have fun with the family”
– trip to the frozen yogurt bar

– amazing pizza (that Mom didn’t make, nor did it come in a box from a little
Roman guy for $5, already prepared & still warm)
– specific gifts for each of our children
(including our oldest daughter who stayed back in Detroit
to “hold down the fort” and also preach on Sunday morning!)
– a membership to one of the country’s most fantastic museums
– a serious chunk of money to purchase the sound system
that we’ve been borrowing & had to give back unless we
could buy it
– Even more money beyond what the sound system cost

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But that’s not really the whole story…
– So many people from this church actually pray for us, our family
and Courage Church!
– They asked specific questions about how they could continue
to pray
– They’d been on our website and cared about what they saw
– They believe in what we’re doing and pray for Detroit
– They prayed for us by name… and for all those who
minister/volunteer with us
– People walked up to us and blessed us with all sorts of
gifts and services… personally sacrificing!
(They include provision for a cavity-free mouth,
a vehicle, a winter coat and more!)

My heart just bubbles with joy as I recount their warm,
expressions of love, support and encouragement.
They believe in what we’re doing here in
the city!

Thank you, Jesus, for sending these wonderful people
into our lives! Thank you, CCC, for loving us in so
many ways!


A weekend that’s hard to put into words,
but forever in our hearts and memories!

I Should be Good at “Goodbye”

It’s been happening for years… since 1997.
Wonderful students come into our lives, become a huge part of our life & family, crawl into our hearts, cause us to grow and change as they do the same… and then they LEAVE!
But in actuality, it’s all part of the plan… I know it’s gunna happen from the moment they arrive.

You see, My husband and I are dedicated to discipling & mentoring young adults. From anywhere in the USA (and even Guam), post high school students come into our lives to be a part of the mentorship/ministry training program.  All along… from the moment they arrive on day one… I KNOW that they’re coming here to learn and then… to GO. But that doesn’t make it easier. I fall in love with them.

Today  a moving van in metro Detroit is being loaded  in preparation for a young family to move to Conneticut and plant a new church. We’ve know this couple since they were barely out of their teens (back when they totally couldn’t stand each other… or could they??) Now, nearly 12 years later, we are saying good-bye to them and their adorable children. I don’t like good bye. I cry. Often.  Of course they’re following God’s leading; of course they came to train, learn and grow and then leave. Of course I’ve known this for years… But tell that to my tear ducts!

In another area of metro detroit,  a flight is arriving today from California that carries a beautiful young lady. She senses God’s leading and is hoping to join the ministry here as she, too, trains for whatever is next. She’s adorable. I’ve already met her and she jumped into my heart after our first conversation. I’ll be saying, “Hello” to her all weekend.  And then someday down the road I’ll probably be saying, “Good Bye.”  It won’t be fun. But it’ll be right.

I guess if goodbyes were easy for me it would mean that I wasn’t connected to people. Tearful partings reflect the joys of living life together, sharing the ups & downs, together pouring ourselves into the community and allowing ourselves to love and be loved. That’s living life.

Goodbyes are NOT fun… But, praise JESUS, cuz it’s these moments that let me know that my heart is still soft & gooshy.

Goodbye, Quinones Family. You’re leaving my state, but never my heart!
Hello, Brooke. Welcome to my state… you’re already in my heart!



Something Love Doesn’t Require

If you asked someone to define love they’d probably mention the word trust somewhere in there. But that’s not actually true.

(But before I go on I must say that I’m NOT talking about the kind of love that would lead to marriage! Single People, Don’t even look twice at someone if they’re not trustworthy! And dating should never be a consideration if they aren’t honest!)

One evening not too long ago, as I was praying (and crying) to God about the many people over the years that I’ve made myself vulnerable to, loved freely and then been hurt by, I said, “Lord, I don’t know if I can keep on trusting people.”  He gently replied, “You don’t have to trust to love.”

Loving someone we don’t trust sounds ridiculous! Stupid, in fact. But it’s true. Jesus told us that the greatest kind of love is the one that gives up his/her life for someone else. (John 15:13)  That’s what Jesus did for us… we are certainly not trustworthy… especially when compared to God’s trust-ability!

Giving & living LOVE means we open up ourselves so we can speak encouragement to others, find the good in them, believe the best in them, cheer for them, pray for them, rejoice with them, be ourselves around them, laugh, hug, etc…. Easy enough if the people are trustworthy. Not so easy if they’ve hurt you, taken advantage of you, stabbed you in the back, talked behind your back, took their knowledge of you and made themselves gain something while you lose it. NOT EASY!

So, what was my response that evening during prayer when God assured me that I don’t have to trust to love?  Well,  honestly, a couple of embarrassing whimper noises and few more tears. Then a huge sigh of relief and joy!

Giving love = joy!


So Busy, Again…

A couple of days ago I posted about my frustration with the sentence, “I’m so busy!”

Before I say more I have to clarify the previous post… I’m not against having a full schedule and living life to the fullest. My frustration is with people who TALK about it ALL THE TIME and/or over-commit to things they should say, “no” to. But, let’s assume that you’re NOT one those people…

Let’s supposed that all of us reading this right now have lives  full of useful things that we’re supposed to be doing. If this is actually true, then we’re probably pretty good at knowing our priorities and living by them…. and saying,”YES” when needed and “NO” when necessary.

Although all the magazines & organizing blogs make it sound like “saying no” is a piece of cake, it of course, is NOT!  Saying no involves people… and we like people. So what can you say or do to make the “no” easier? We don’t always mean “No way, Never!” Sometimes it just has to be later, or in a different way.

Here’s a few ideas that will still help you communicate to the person that you care about them but simply cannot say yes at the time and/or way they’ve requested.  And, after reading these ideas PLEASE list your own!

– “Let me take a look at next month and let’s get it on the calendar.”

– When asked to be involved in something big: “All of your ideas are wonderful. Although I’m unable to oversee the bake sale, I’d love to bake cookies and get one of my friends to donate treats, too.” This communicates your interest in their event but sets the limits of your involvement.

– “Yes, getting our kids together sounds fun. We’re planning to be at the park on Friday. Wanna join us then?” (this doesn’t add anything else to your calendar, but does add fun & time with friends)

– “Ooh, what an interesting  idea. Although I’m probably not the right fit for it at this point,  may I have your website so I can pass on to a couple of my friends who may be interested.” (Don’t say this unless you mean it!)

– “This week doesn’t have much wiggle room, but we could plan something for the week of the 17th?”

-“The invitations are just adorable. I bet the rest of the party will be, too. But sadly, I won’t be able to attend. Would it be OK if I drop off a gift the day before the party?”


Notice the absence of  the words busy, crazy, can’t, etc. But it does point out the positive points of the one doing the asking and does not imply that your life is more important than their life.

What are your thoughts & ideas about saying, “NO?”


I’m Too Old for That

In recent days I’ve connected with…

– an amazing single pastor in her 30’s

– a 20-something lady from another county with more experience
in youth ministry than many life-timer youth pastors

– a classy lady in her 50’s whose house is from a magazine
and her entertainment skills put Martha Stewart to shame

– a young married mom of 3 kids, ages 4 and under

– a single 20-something who ministers to preschoolers all day

– a young married lady who will soon be planting a church
out east with her husband

– a southern bell (sorta) in her 30’s who is married w/one child
and has preached several times recently at her church

– a lady in her mid 40’s who sends me encouraging texts and
blesses many other church planter’s wife in Michigan

– Another lady in her 20’s who is leaving the suburbs next week
 & moving into the city… cuz it’s where her heart is

– A young Mom who also left the burbs a year ago & moved into the city
with her husband & little boy, and happens to gives piano lessons to
her pastor’s kids as a ministry

– A 40-something who gives sewing lessons to the muslim girls
in her neighborhood, just to show them the love of Jesus

– A 40 year old lady who’s life closely mirrors mine… but her address
is in Maryland… too far away

When I was younger I thought I  needed that ONE friend…
that ONE person who could fulfill all my friendship needs.
But I’ve later realized that diversity is beautiful!
Not just race, but background, age, outlook, calling, etc….

All of these woman are my friends…
and each of them fill a different “spot” in my “friendship need.”

What I contribute to one friendship is vastly different from what
I give to another friendship. And vise versa.
But they all mean a great deal to me.
They’re all counted as cherished gifts from Jesus.

Yeah, I used to think I really needed that ONE best friend,
but now, I’m too old for that (and hopefully too wise for that, too!).

(NOTE: I have more friends than those listed, but these are
ones that I’ve connected with in the last 8 days.)


 Our house sat empty for months before we bought it.
It was in decent condition, but the weeds were starting
to feel right at home.


Honestly, we’ve only lived here a few weeks and I
had already stopped noticing them.
I was used to those weeds.
They were almost decorative.


But then…
Our friends came to the rescue!

About 15 of our wonderful friends came over on Saturday
and pulled weeds, and raked, and pulled weeks, and
helped fix the pipes so we can water the lawn next spring,
and did I mention that they pulled weeds?

My life is the same.
So is your life.
We have areas that we ignore, don’t wanna deal with,
so we don’t.
Then weeds grow. Little compromises that junk up our lives.
Little attitudes that are sin. Plain & simple.
We get used to them.
It takes honest, Jesus-lovin’ friends to point’um out
and help us decide to get rid of the weeds.
Then, great friends go the next step, too, and
help us establish a working system (like the water pipes)
that will keep the healthy growth happening.
Do you have friends like this?
You must BE one to have one.
(and your life must be respectable before you can
earn the right to speak truth into a friend’s life)

You know you live in the city when… Part 2

(Click here if you haven’t read Part 1.)

The very first thing you do after you get out of bed each

morning is peek out the front window to be sure that
your car is still there.

You’re careful to stay in your house at the stroke of Midnight
on New Year’s because your neighbors are shooting their
guns in the air… just cuz they can. (not legally, I’m sure)
When you get a random knock on your door at 1:04 AM
from strangers who then stagger into the street & on to a
another door (probably looking for their own house).
When you LOVE to use your horn because people drive
SO stinkin‘ crazy!!!! (Horns are not an anger outlet,
they are life-saving tools!)
It’s only 6:58AM and the “call to prayer” blasts through
the streets from the local mosques for the 1st of 5 times
each day. Grr.
(I thought they had to wait until at least 8am.)
When you can capture your entire backyard in one photo.
When you find yourself twitching because it’s so difficult
to resist the urge to constantly correct other peoples’
grammar usage.
You take your kids to the wonderful zoo filled
with exotic animals from around the world,
& your youngest kids beg,
“Can we please just go see the farm animals.”
Your 3 year old puts up the hood on his hoody sweatshirt,
saunters into the kitchen and throws his hands in the air…
awwh yey!”
Everytime you drive way out into the suburbs & your kids
see lota trees & grass…your youngest kids ask you,
“Are we in another country?”
When your teenage daughter is better at parallel parking than
regular parking cuz street park is all we have!
When it’s snowy outside & you have to shovel out the
Street parking spot in front of your house… and then,
knowing that some “less-motivated” neighbor wants to take
your cleared parking spot you “Mark” your spot by
putting a lawn chair and/or plastic milk crate
in front of your house!
When it’s really hot & humid outside you really do see
people sitting in the doorways of building on those
same milk crates!
But, like I said in Part 1 of this post…
When you’re out of town & people ask when you’re from
and then after you answer them they sorta gasp & then
just stare at you… they stare out of awe, or respect or
pity or just straight disgust that we’d be so foolish to
move our family to that city.
When you totally love this city and the people!
And find it amazing how God has turned His calling into
the desire of your heart.

Update on Pastor Kevin

God is doing MIRACLES!
Although some major national news stations
ran the story with a completely INCORRECT
ending, the truth is, Pastor Kevin Ramsby is
alive and recovering in a Detroit hospital!

You may click here to read details about
what took place and the amazing miracles
that are happening!