What Are My Kids Learning?

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By: Amber Harder, Communications Specialist

 

It was Sunday morning and I was tired. It had been a particularly hard night with the baby, and not just that night but the 100 nights prior to it too. The thought of making it to church early to attend 9am Connect seemed overwhelming, exhausting, and next to impossible.

We broke the news to our kids over breakfast. “We’re not going to make it to 9am Connect today. We’ll just be going to church today.”

This did not go over well. What ensued was a mixture of whining, debate, and heart-felt promises of “I’ll get ready right away if we can go to Connect!”

I looked at Zac. He looked at me. Our kids were begging us to go to church. In the grand scheme of things, this was a really good problem to have. So, with the energy of a team breaking from their huddle, we finished breakfast and scattered to our separate corners of the house to get ready and GO!

I am grateful that my kids like going to church. I appreciate that enCompass has a nurturing, energetic, Bible-based place for my kids to soak u

 

p what it means to follow Christ. My oldest, Feven, is learning amazing information about the Bible and its history through her 9am kidConnect group. I’m in awe of what she tells us on the car ride home and throughout the week. Recently I shared a Bible passage with her from the book of Luke and she said, “Mom, did you know that Luke wrote Luke?!?” Incredible. My 6-year-old is learning who wrote specific books in the Bible!

My daughter is also learning what it means to be in community. On one of our car rides home from church recently she said, “Mom, some of my friends and I have been talking. You know there’s a Dad’s Night Out group and a Mom’s Night Out group? Well, we think there should be a Girl’s Night Out group for me and my friends. We were thinking maybe on a Wednesday. We want to build community.” Yes, my 6-year-old actually used those words “build community.”

Through her experience at church, she sees the adults in our congregation building community by checking in, praying for one another, and spending time with each other. She sees that as important, and it’s further emphasized in her Sunday mornings at church with her Club E! class. Cate has stressed to her students the importance of building community, and they have taken it to heart and are looking for more ways they can do so.

 

I love it. I love everything about this. I’m grateful God is working through our church to teach my children what it means for them to follow Him – both in their personal lives and in their social lives.

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…And That’s How You Make Lemonade

lemonsBy: Deron Vaupel, Ministries Administrator

Just like any other August, I expected our conversation to be about budget revisions for the coming fiscal year, but I was very mistaken. Instead, I was hearing from Kevin about his new job with Young Life, and my mind started going several different directions. What does that mean for me? What does that mean for enCompass? What time frame? What needs to happen in the next few months? How much of that do I need to do? What other questions need to be answered? What haven’t I thought of yet? That all went racing through my mind over the next several days.

I’ve had similar conversations in the past, but this one was a bit different. In some form or another, Kevin’s been my boss longer than any other supervisor. I’ve learned a lot from him and grown to appreciate several aspects of his leadership style. I remained a bit numb for the rest of the week, but as I began having conversations with other staff and people from the congregation, the numbness started to turn to hope, expectation, and excitement.

Change is an inevitable part of life. How we handle those changes says a lot about our character. That applies not only to individuals, but also to organizations. enCompass is a church of doers, and in my conversations, that doer attitude really came out. I found that there were several other people asking the same questions and taking the same steps to prepare for what’s ahead. There are many new faces around on Sunday mornings, and that’s especially encouraging because if I were the one showing up to a church right around the time a significant leadership transition was happening, I’d seriously consider moving to the next one on my list. In the past few weeks, a significant number of people, especially young adults, have stepped forward to say they’re invested in the future of enCompass by becoming Church Community Members. Connect Groups are going well, exciting things are happening with Childrens’ and Student Ministries, and the teaching series that are coming up are very intriguing. There’s a lot happening that gives me hope.

Yes, there’s a lot of work to do. There’s a lot of uncertainty. But in it all, we’re called to keep coming back to the truth that a congregation isn’t solely defined by the identity of the lead pastor…it’s about how the members of the congregation use their individual gifts and abilities to follow God’s call for the sake of his Kingdom. From all I’ve seen in my years at enCompass, we’re ready to take this next step. The essential thing in approaching the transition is to keep coming back to the mission and values of the church, asking how our unique abilities contribute to God using enCompass in the world around us.

Hearts to Serve

By: Matthew Deitner

Hearts to ServeI don’t want to alarm anyone but enCompass seems to have a problem. As problems go it’s a good one to have. From the very beginning we had made up our minds that we wanted to be a church that impacted the local and global community positively for the Kingdom of God. We intended to do that through both the time that we spend serving and the gifts that the church receives. The problem that we realized existed is that we lacked a clear strategy for how to do exactly that; how do we determine what other ministries we partner with? How do we determine where God is calling us to build his Kingdom? How we do determine where we invest our time and money?

These are questions that we still may not be able to answer definitively. However, under the direction of Pastor Kevin and the church board a group of us have been meeting over the past 18 months to start diving into these questions and attempt to come up with a better framework for thinking through some of these questions. Stan Sveen, Brenda Wetzel, Curt Rosen, Caren Nicholson, and myself have committed to doing some reading (When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, if you need some recommendations for your own library) and talking through these questions and others to determine where our time and money is best invested in impacting the local and global community for the Kingdom of God. As we have gone through this process we’ve identified 5 main principles that we believe should guide our church as we explore new opportunities.

1. Partnership
Ever tried taking on a huge project on your own? How did that turn out for you? In my experience it doesn’t end well. That’s why we want to be committed to being in a partnership with those we serve. The basic way we understand partnership is that we and the people we serve are both bringing something to the relationship. It’s not a relationship where we give and they take. And it’s not merely a financial transaction.
In my work as a chaplain I always look for someone else to have some “skin in the game.” They need to have just as much invested in a successful outcome as I do. This accomplishes two crucially important things. One, it keeps me from burning out. Two, it adds some dignity into the process for those we are serving.
For these two reasons we are looking for any impactful opportunity we have to be a partner with those we serve.

2. Engagement
This is where the congregation as a whole comes in. We want the church community members of enCompass to be excited and involved with what we are supporting. Because let’s face it, it’s kind of embarrassing when you’re telling a story of something you’re excited about and nobody seems to care. Things seem to work better when we are working in areas that excite us.

3. Champion/sponsor
We also believe that for any new opportunities we have to impact the world there needs to be a leader. As a former pastor I can say that it’s not fun to try and lead every single ministry by yourself (see principle number 1, partnership). We want to see church community members step up and lead the things they are excited about leading. We want to see people “champion” the cause that they are passionate for.

4. Fills a Gap
We start by asking questions. What people group is currently underserved? What need does our community (locally and globally) have that is going unmet? Will our support make a meaningful difference?
We don’t want to be a community that does what everyone else is doing simply because it’s the latest headline. We want to take a closer look at who isn’t being served and how we could make the greatest impact.

5. Serves Materially poor
Finally, we want to serve those who are materially poor. There’s a lot of poverty in the world in the emotional and spiritual realm and we don’t want to ignore that. But we have come to a belief that addressing the emotional or spiritual poverty of a person begins with alleviating some of the stress that comes with being materially poor. I come into contact with people daily who are in need of the things that some of us take for granted such as food and shelter. It’s nearly impossible to start talking to them about the Kingdom of God while they are still lacking the bottom half of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Our hope and belief is that as we work to alleviate some of these needs people will hear the Gospel and start to move towards emotional and spiritual wholeness.

So that’s what we’ve been discussing. Over the next four weeks we’ll be discussing some of these principles in Sunday Connect groups as well as the morning messages. We want to hear from you. What principles make sense to you? What, if anything, do you see as important to add to this list? Where do you personally feel the urge to make an impact in the Kingdom of God?

 

Mirror Neurons and Role Models

ice cream coneBy: Alex Blackwell, Student Ministry Pastor

I’ve been fascinated lately with mirror neurons. I was having a conversation a couple months ago with a group of parents. This is when I learned about mirror neurons. We were talking about how incredible it is that our little babies were able to look at our faces, see our smiles and smile back. I can look at a hundred things people around me do, and there’s no way my body translates it in the same way – knowing exactly what muscles to use to mimic and do the same thing. “It’s almost instinctive,” I said. Another dad across the room smiled at me and said, “it’s mirror neurons.” He went on to explain that there are neurons in the brain specifically wired to help the body mirror what someone else is doing when they see it. Gabriel can look at my smile and smile back, without even thinking about it, because these neurons help his face muscles do what they have to do to form a smile, instead of a frown or a hundred other faces. There’s no trial and error to figure it out. It just happens. He will continue to grow into a boy and a young man, and learn how to be so with the help of mirror neurons. Fascinating.

A few weeks ago we had a student ministries event getting Nelson’s ice cream. When we walked in to the room we would sit down in to enjoy our MOUNDS of ice cream, I noticed what was very likely a date outside the window. I looked up at the students at our event and I started making up the voices and words that the couple was conversing about. Very innocent, I assure you – nothing against the couple. I said things like “MMM I love ice cream nom nom nom” (in a low manly voice), followed by “yeah I can tell it’s all over your face” (in a high-pitched girl voice). The students giggled, and maybe even laughed a little – but there was no way they were going to partake in the voice-over game. Somehow the subject changed, undoubtedly one of them said something to shift the focus away from doing something that may even slightly risk their embarrassment. What if what they came up with wasn’t all that funny to the rest of us? A while later we started cleaning up, and got up to leave. As I started walking toward the door, I heard the voice of one of our students playing the voice-over game with the couple one last time before we left – something about the girl being embarrassed with the idea of being seen in public with a guy with ice cream all over his face (the guy didn’t actually have any ice cream on his face). The student risked embarrassment, but also took the risk, meeting my original hopes that shared experience and comfortability would grow in the midst of our small growing community of students.

This story is a metaphor for the greater experience of modeling good character, a strong faith, and continual growth for the students at enCompass. I am thankful for a team of solid volunteers who have been showing up in the lives of our students, through one on one experiences and at our events. I am thankful for those beyond our volunteer team, in the broader enCompass community, who model community, desire for growth, and a heart to serve the city, country, and world around us. Whether with the help of mirror neurons or with help beyond what mirror neurons can provide, I believe, because of our great models, that we are poised to see significant growth among our students.

Growing Through Connect Groups

By: Deron Vaupel, Ministry Administrator

In my time at enCompass, I’ve had the privilege to be a part of several different Connect Groups – Dads Group, Men’s Groups, House Groups, Sunday Morning Connect, etc. Of all the different ways I’ve been a part of the enCompass community, my involvement in these groups has probably been the most meaningful. I’m generally someone who prefers interactions in smaller groups of people, and the relationships that have been built in these different groups have been quite formative in many different areas. A couple examples:

For the past several months, I’ve been getting together with other dads from enCompass every Tuesday night to discuss a book about raising life-ready kids. There’s something special about younger dads coming together with ‘seasoned veterans’ to talk about our mistakes, successes, challenges, and hopes (not to mention the interspersed YouTube videos). We’ve learned a lot from each other about different ways to teach our kids and how to incorporate our faith into the day-to-day of parenting. I might even go so far as to say that we’re all (at least a little bit) better dads because of this group. This group has been a great respite for me and a source of a lot of wisdom.

Sunday morning Connect Groups always have a lot to offer. While the topics vary quite a bit, following along with the sermons or focusing on more topical content, the discussions are always rousing. There’s usually a range of generations represented, which means a lot of different perspectives when it comes to interpreting scripture. There’s something unique about young adults and retired people interacting over topics of faith. Over the past year, I’ve had the privilege of leading several of these sessions, and I’m always challenged and energized as a result of the time we spend together.

Connect Groups exist at enCompass to give people different opportunities to grow in their relationships with God and others. Along with the other ministries of enCompass, they’re guided by 3 core values: Belong, Grow, Serve, and over the years, I’ve experienced each of these values to varying degrees. For me, when it comes to building a meaningful relationship with God and others, I’m not sure there’s any better way.

Even though some groups are wrapping up for the season, my encouragement to you is this: If it’s been awhile since you’ve been a part of a group, start thinking through what it might look like to join something in the near future. If you’ve never been a part of a Connect Group, see what will be a good fit for you. Or you could even consider what it might look like to lead one yourself. You may have the perfect idea for something new, and the passion to make it happen – and who knows…there might be someone else looking to connect in the same way. If you fall into one of these categories, I’d love to talk to you more. Click here to get in touch with me.

Weird Uncles, Crazy Cousins, Wacky Aunts – Our Family

By: Samantha Sir

SamanthaHey, enCompass family! This year has been transformative for me, to say the least. It was my second year of coming to enCompass services, but really my first year of coming regularly. Although I haven’t been able to get as involved as I would like, I have finally let myself feel a part of this family. I am going to talk a little bit about the ways I see God working in enCompass and what God has been doing in my life, and how they work together. I hope it is encouraging to you.

When I first came to enCompass, I did not let myself get attached. I have been hurt by the Church in the past and have been a part of several church families, causing me to stay guarded. Through a combination of the authenticity of the sermons, music, and most importantly the people, I have really felt accepted and valued in this family. This is also significant because it is my first church (as an adult – without my parents). As a college student, I long to be a part of a family that includes people of all ages since I’m used to being surrounded by other students in the same stage of life as I am. The adults – the sisters, mothers, fathers and brothers – of enCompass have taken me in, just as the body of Christ. This started to occur as I came more consistently and did other things such as Connect group, leading worship, and prayer meetings.

This semester was a very rocky, twisty, sometimes dismal chapter of my life. It was a time that I was trying to complete an education in a major that I was not meant to do, but God led me to try it – and fail – so that I could learn to trust Him. I felt useless, incompetent, and frustrated, but God showed me that I can do more than I imagined, and that he can give us more strength and joy than I ever thought possible. The words of encouragement and exhortation I received at enCompass were one of the ways that God did this.

When He finally ended that journey, showing me a different path, I learned to listen to him. He had been telling me deep down that I was not using my gifts and passions fully, and that I was not a fit for the job that I was striving for, but I didn’t listen until very late in the process. Even though I was not very connected with enCompass throughout this process, they were praying for me. Also, the truth that I heard on Sundays lingered in my brain and heart throughout the week, and the Lord used it to speak to me. As the chapter ended and I was freed, I started getting more connected, and found that even though I felt as if I had offered nothing these past months – because I was physically and spiritually not able to – the people of enCompass were not bitter, guarded, or annoyed. No, instead, they embraced me and showed me that I am valued for just being there, not for what I accomplished.

This year, I have seen what sets enCompass apart from a lot of other churches. We still have room for improvement, but we are acting more as a family and a body of parts working together. I have seen growth, not necessarily in numbers, but in becoming a family in which we have the weird uncles, crazy cousins, wacky aunts, and everyone has their issues, but we love each other. As believers, we need to be real. We need to accept our own flaws and the flaws of others. I have seen this developing at enCompass. In fact, the weirdness makes me feel so at home that I almost feel… normal!! … Well, I don’t believe in normal, but seriously, I feel a part of this family. I have room for improvement too, but I look forward to seeing how we continue to grow together.

We can’t do this alone. Jesus made us to live in community with each other, loving and serving as he showed us to by example. Let’s keep striving for this and learning what this means in our own lives. As I learned this year, there are seasons in which I may have nothing to offer, but I am still valued as a part of the body! We are all called to love each other and be loved, and we do this by being open and vulnerable to God working through each person.

 

 

My (latest) Wow Moment

raised hands.jpgBy: Deron Vaupel, Ministry Administrator

There are many points in ministry where I have to step back and just say, ‘wow’…times when I’m just blown away by the generosity and diligence of people who, even though they’re not ‘professionals’ when it comes to church-y stuff, jump right in to give, serve, etc., simply because it’s something they’re passionate about. I’ve had this happen more times than I can count with service projects, fundraising, and the general tasks that need to happen in the week-to-week details of ministry.

As the enCompass staff worked through responses to our February teaching series, I believe we all ended up at another one of those ‘wow’ moments. Actually, let me correct that…it was more of an “AHHHHHHWOOOOHOOOOOUmmmm…” moment. I’ll explain:

AHHHHH
Back in September, the staff started working through what it would mean to invite the enCompass community into a deeper understanding and practice of being the body of Christ. This meant taking a hard look at everything that happens at enCompass – from changing diapers to preaching sermons, Sunday mornings to the rare times that things happen on Saturday nights. We did as much as we could think of to prepare for this invitation, including writing up job descriptions and figuring out how to best support volunteers in different areas. It was exhausting and at times arduous, so understandably we could let out a sigh of relief when the series wrapped up.

“WOOOOOOHOOOOO!”
After 5ish months of work, we still didn’t really know what to expect. When 75 people expressed at least interest in learning more about where they might be able to serve, there was much celebration. People actually want to learn more about showing up at 7:30am on a Sunday to push carts and set up chairs? Someone’s ready right now to help with student ministries? WONDERFUL!!!! It’s a lot of fun to see hard work pay off in tangible ways. But then…

“Ummmm…”
Not long after the celebration died down, we had to reign things in with the reality that now we have the responsibility to follow through with people, supporting them as they work to see how they fit in as part of the body of Christ. We talked about what it would look like, but not knowing what sort of response we would get, it was difficult to fully prepare for what was ahead. Fortunately, the staff had a good team of volunteers to help with the follow-up and discernment process. It’s translated to a lot of phone calls, e-mails, coffee dates, and eventually training, mentoring, and further discerning.

I’ve studied Ephesians 4 (our passage from the February series) quite a bit in the past 20 years. But as we worked through it this time, verses 11 & 12 held particular depth:

“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up…”

My responsibility as someone in vocational ministry is to be a conduit for God’s work in peoples’ lives. I’m called to teach, support, equip, and encourage so that others can more fully use their gifts for the sake of God’s kingdom. It can be overwhelming at times, but it’s these ‘wow’ moments that bring more and more confirmation of my own calling to be in ministry, to be doing all I can for the sake of the Body of Christ.

Thank you for the part you played in our ‘AHHHHHHWOOOOHOOOOUmmmmm’ moment. enCompass wouldn’t be the church it is without each and every one of you.

 

 

Photo credit: blondinrikard via VisualHunt.com / CC BY

 

My Vision for enCompass Youth

By: Alex Blackwell, Student Ministry Pastor

Alex Blackwell.JPGMany have asked me why I decided to come to enCompass. In fact, I wrote a blog post about it back in September. Just scroll down to the last section to see my thoughts. My answer has always been the same to anyone who asks: relationships and authenticity. This is great news in light of what can seem like daunting and concerning statistics about how many students lose their faith when they go off to college. Why is this good news? Consider two fictional stories that represent what a lot of college students experience.

Jenna went to college a few hours away from her Christian home. This was just far enough that it meant she wouldn’t be going home very often to visit family. College for her was her first opportunity for independence. Despite her parents’ attempts at guiding her through some of her collegiate decisions, everything else was up to her. Jenna knew one or two people who came to the same college from her hometown, but for the most part, she was on her own in navigating the new vast waters of independence. When faced with new decisions and their consequences – both short and long term – she felt alone in figuring it all out. Hungry for relationships, she said “yes” to the first invitation she got – which was to a party a few blocks off campus. This provided a place to meet a lot of people who had the mindset, “we’re in college, let’s have fun.” It wasn’t too long before Jenna’s decisions brought her into a lifestyle of hedonism that didn’t correlate well with her faith. She set her faith aside so that she could continue with her new lifestyle and friends thinking, “maybe I’ll pick it back up later.”

Mike had a lot of fun at his youth group in High School. They had a weekly gathering where they played fun games and heard short talks on Christian morals, like not gossiping, not lying, and consistently praying. When Mike got to college, it was the first time he heard questions about Christianity that he couldn’t answer. He thought about e-mailing his high-school youth pastor, but never really had a strong friendship with him. He reached out to others from his church, but their answers were, “because the Bible says so.” Now Mike had to wrestle with questions like “why is there pain and suffering in the world if God loves us?” and “why are there contradictions in the Bible?” on his own and with his questioning friends. Over time their questions wore him down, and he didn’t feel like he could maintain intellectual integrity and be a Christian at the same time. His growing doubts led him to leave his Christian faith.

I acknowledge that these stories are concerning and sad. In my mind, there is hope for our students. Jenna was left alone to figure out her new world of independence and settled for shallow relationships. Remedy: Relationship. Mike’s story is marked by shallow answers of faith confronting deep empirical, intellectual doubts. Remedy: Authenticity.

My vision for enCompass youth is for us to create space for our students to build deep relationships with their peers, mentors, and church community that they can lean on while they are in Junior High and High School, but also when they move on to whatever is next for them. The second part of my vision is for those relationships to be marked by authenticity that (1) says more than just, “because the Bible says so,” when our students wrestle with hard questions, (2) acknowledges that there are hard questions to think through, and (3) understands that Christian minds have been thinking through these things since the beginning of the church – some of them before that! Relationships and authenticity and every combination of the two are exactly, in my mind, what our students need. I hope and pray that enCompass continues to hold as tight to these two things as it did when Alli and I first came to love it here.

That Tingly Feeling

By: Nicole Quast

photo-for-nicoles-blogThere are some things in life that just give you that feel good tingly feeling or a high you just can’t explain.  It might be a baby’s laugh, a child saying I love you, a hug or kiss from your spouse.  For me it is all of those things but it is also serving others.

A few years back, my New Year’s resolution was to serve more.  I tried multiple times to corral my friends and family and have them commit to dates to do larger events.  I would always get responses like, “well I think I can make it” or “I will try to make it”.  It was so challenging to get a firm commitment and I was starting to feel defeated.  This is when I stumbled upon enCompass church.  I was overjoyed to find out they had a Community Service Team and felt it was an answer to my prayers.  I was so nervous to join the team but I am so glad I did!   I enjoy being part of the Community Service Team.  I enjoy the planning phase, the collection phase, the conversations etc.  I think it is a wonderful group who are giving, loving, and serving people.  Some of our most recent service activities have focused on filling the needs within the backyard of enCompass – at Central Park Elementary School.  Through our service ministry, we have developed a relationship with this school and have been able to support them in many areas.  Some of these are Bucks for Backpacks, Warm and Wooly Winter Wear, Sheridan Story weekend packs, and a few other things.

After joining the Community Service Team, I continued to have a strong desire to serve! So, last spring, I organized a Mom’s Night Out at Sheridan Story to do a packing event.  A group of enCompass moms and church goers showed up at their warehouse and packed weekend food packs.  We worked hard and filled so many weekend packs!  Before leaving, we discussed with the staff how much fun we had and our desire to do it again.  They told us that they were full for the rest of the school year.  We were bummed, but realized that this was a good thing! I left that night a little more tired than when I got there but with a tingly heart filled feeling!

So this fall, I decided to plan 4 Sheridan Story meal packing events for our church.  So far, we have completed two of the events.  At both of the events, we have had a great turnout!  I have enjoyed each one and have gotten the chance to get to know some enCompass goers better.  Each time I leave exhausted but with a tingly heart filled feeling.  Our next packing events will be April 6th and May 4th.  Please consider joining us and getting your heart filled! You can learn more here.

These past few years, I have been working hard to fill my heart, but this year I also really wanted my children to learn about giving and serving.  It is my desire to teach them about serving and helping them to develop a sense of pride when they do things for others and ultimately get that tingly heart filled feeling when they do!  This Christmas at our house I wanted my children to understand that Christmas is about giving and not receiving.  I decided to have them do an advent basket for the food shelf.  Each day we added an item to the basket of something they used or ate that day to try to make it relevant.  A few days before Christmas we delivered it to the local food shelf.  I wasn’t sure my kids truly understood what or why we were doing it, but when my youngest son said to the volunteer who helped us with our food, “Merry Christmas,” with the proudest smile on his face, I didn’t care if he totally understood, I thought it was enough because I had tears in my eyes and that tingly feeling in my heart!

I don’t want my children to just think that we give at Christmas time, so I have been thinking about other ways to get them involved in serving.  My oldest son and I participated in a Feed My Starving Children event right after Thanksgiving.  We had so much fun and he wants to do it again.  So, I am interested in setting up a Feed My Starving Children (FMSC) event.  This allows families with younger children to participate; children 5 and over are welcomed to pack bags at FMSC.  I am also interested in setting up an event to make sandwiches for the homeless.  This event would allow children even younger to help out.  Please send me a message if you would be interested in having your families participate in events such as these or if you know of other service activities that allow children to participate.

With this I will leave you with a Bible verse I came across when thinking about writing this:

1 Peter 4:10, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms,” (NIV)

There are so many ways we can serve; I encourage you to find yours and I bet you will receive a tingly heart filled response in return, for God will know you are doing good works through Him!

enCompass Begins for Me

By: Darcy Mears, Children’s Ministry Coordinator

darcys-blog-photo-1When my daughter was about five years old, she started asking where all of our loved ones were going when they died. Unfortunately, we had a slew of losses over the summer months into Fall. My sisters quarter horse had his last run, my Aunt Sunny passed away from colon cancer and Karlene’s betta fish, Thumbelina, floated to the great beyond in our backyard.

I could tell her what I believed but felt it was time to find a church to help her with this question. I began asking around and a good friend told me about enCompass Church in Vadnais Heights. It was very close to our home and a smaller congregation, which I love. I grew up in a small community, attended a high school with only 155 in my graduating class and was confirmed in a close-knit church; this is still my preference for any group size. No chance for obscurity or anonymity, instead an opportunity to meet everyone and become involved.

The involved part happened quickly as kidZone needed a preschool teacher and I was happy to be hired. Apparently, I was still going to be answering her questions along with various other meaningful questions from these little ones, all equally important. Thankfully, I was blessed with a church support system which allowed me to learn right along with the kids as I was also a preschooler by church staff standards. Eventually, I was given the opportunity to become part of the Coordination staff for kidZone. My role continued to grow toward a regular part of staff meetings and various ways to support enCompass, our church home. It began with the gift of enCompass families and their kids walking upstairs to read, play and explore with me and my children and blossomed into the perfect opportunity for me as time marched on.

From the start, the adults at enCompass did more than drop off their children, they also served the kids of enCompass in many ways. Besides volunteering during regular Sunday services, weeks of VBS and events like Birthday Party for Jesus, we also moved MANY tables and chairs and rolled out numerous racks of toys, materials and games each and every Sunday. I remember the day my friend, Frank, told me he would commit to running check-in every Sunday for at least a year! In the end, I think he stayed for close to three which was a HUGE help to me and the families.

Many years later, at Concordia Academy, we still move tables and chairs and roll the same racks out of storage each Sunday…in a wonderful church home. Again, I am reminded how truly grateful I am as a few other volunteers have committed YEARS (almost every Sunday) to set up in our new home; Stan, Dan and Mark. I still sense God’s grace and love when the kids of enCompass and their families join us in kidZone to grow, serve and love each other every Sunday.  I have had the privilege of serving many for a long time, a few for a short time and I appreciate every family for any time. I am happy to say; the questions still continue but the answers are now easily found.

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