Connecting Point – September 27, 2023

 

In August of 1991, at the invitation of a neighbor, my wife Kathy and I entered Celebration Church for the first time. We enjoyed the service and felt like this was where the Lord wanted us to be. It wasn't long before we were both serving with the staff of the church. A year and a half later, Celebration hosted a conference with a missionary speaker. During that conference, I felt God speaking to me. I wrote a note to my wife. It said, "I think we're supposed to do international missions really soon." After a few whirlwind interviews and lots of prayer, we found ourselves living in post-Soviet Central Asia, teaching in a trilingual school and desperately trying to share Christ with the people of our village and in the large city nearby.

After trying our best to make a difference, we were befriended by a group of teenagers who invited us to go snow skiing on a mountain nearby. Neither of us knew about skiing but we agreed because we wanted to make a difference for Jesus. We were supposed to catch a bus at 5am and ride with the students to the ski "resort." We were there at 5 but the students didn't show up until 5:45. When I said, "Hey, I thought we were meeting at 5. Did we hear wrong?" The students said, "Oh no, it's not like that. We meant we get up at 5 and start getting ready at that time." Later, the bus dropped us off at an ice skating rink next to a large mountain. "Oh, did we hear wrong?" we asked. "Are we going ice skating?" A student replied, "Oh no. It's not like that. We have to climb this mountain to arrive at the ski resort." So, we literally climbed 1,000 ice covered steps to the top of the mountain. Once we were at the top, my bewildered wife said, "I don't see a ski place." The students replied, "Oh no, it's not like that. We have to walk up this road before we can ski." We walked along the road and soon saw a sign that told us the ski resort was five kilometers away. We sighed and pressed forward. At noon, we finally arrived at the ski resort. I clapped my hands together and cried, "I'm ready. Where do I get my skis?" The teenagers laughed and said, "Oh no. It's not like that. We don't actually ski. We just ride the lift up and down." So, we rode the Soviet made ski lift up and down the mountain, praying they would not fall. After lunch, we made our way back down the mountain, rode the bus back to the city where we found an inexpensive dinner and finally caught a bus back to our village around 9pm. The students were having so much fun that they asked, "Can we all come over to your apartment right now for a party?" My exhausted wife turned to them and said, "Oh no! It's not like that."

Even though we didn't meet with those students that night, we still wanted to make a difference in their lives. That next week, they hosted a birthday party for my wife, decided they liked meeting together, and asked if they could meet weekly for English lessons and fellowship. It wasn't long before one single college missionary led one of the local girls to Christ. That girl led all of her sisters and eventually her parents to the Lord. That family led all of those other students to Christ and it spread from there. They grew into a church which sent missionaries around Central Asia and into western China. Not long ago, my wife and I received an invitation to attend the 25th anniversary of that church that launched in that village. Ironically, it came as we were preparing for our annual Difference Makers Conference at Celebration. I remember thinking, "I sure am glad we attended that conference so many years ago and listened to the Lord."

"Little did I know where I would be today, a campus pastor, encouraging people
in ways I never could have imagined."
I recently heard a similar story from Pastor James Fletcher from our River Parishes campus. He and his wife Elisha had been attending and slowly getting involved. Pastor Checkerz Williams invited them to the Difference Makers Conference because he saw great potential in both of them. They decided to attend and at the conference, they heard a missionary speaker from Brazil talk about Barnabas. Pastor James said, "That conference changed my life forever. The pastor shared about how Barnabas was encouraging to everyone around him and how God had called many of the people in the room to be like Barnabas." God used that in the lives of James and Elisha and they decided to be like Barnabas for those they encountered. Pastor James recently said, "Little did I know where I would be today, a campus pastor, encouraging people in ways I never could have imagined."
Saturday, October 7th is our annual Difference Makers Conference, or DMC '23. This conference is for anyone who wants to make a difference in their home, church, school, community, and world. Through great speakers, inspiring breakout sessions, and times of worship, this conference will pave the way for the Holy Spirit to direct us in the ways we can move forward spiritually in the coming year and beyond.

 This year, we'll hear from missionaries Robert Barriger from Peru, Steve Kern from El Salvador, and Moses Odhiambo from Kenya. I'm looking forward to hearing from each of these pastors sharing from the Word of God about how we can all reach new heights in our relationship with and service to the Lord.

Someone sent me a text yesterday and asked, "Can my kids come to the Difference Makers Conference?" I replied back and said, "Absolutely!" and shared with them about how they could register their children. Later, however, I thought about how I should have replied. I should have said, "Well, let me ask you a question. What hopes and dreams do you have for your children? What type of person do you want your teenager to become? At Celebration, it's our prayer that all of our young people grow up to be great men and women of God who make a difference wherever they go. We want them to become Difference Makers in their homes and schools and careers." At Celebration, we have a list of value statements we call our "We Believe's." One of those statements says, "We believe children and teenagers are the church right now, not simply the future of the church." That's why at this year's Difference Maker's Conference, we're not simply offering child care, we're hosting separate conferences for those in our Kidztown and Midpoint ministries. These kids will be actively learning about missions, missionaries, and about how they can make a difference right now wherever they live or go to school. Even our Downtown kids, those who are in nursery preschool, will have a praise party around the world where they will experience different types of people praising God in countries and languages from around the world. Our high school students will be in the main sessions with our adults, but will also have age-appropriate times for breakout and fun times throughout the morning with our youth ministry staff and volunteers from our different campuses. Don't miss this opportunity for your child to become a Difference Maker. Register them today at celebrationchurch.org/dmc. 

Click here to register for Difference Makers Conference!
While Celebration believes in actively supporting missions and missionaries, we believe in living AS missionaries both here and around the world. That's one reason why we're hosting missionary speakers, sharing information about our upcoming mission trips, including a missions fair, and giving $1000 to one of our conference participants for a 2024 mission trip. It's our hope and prayer that all of our Celebration members and attenders become difference makers for the Lord. We encourage you to join us for this year's Difference Makers Conference. To register, see celebrationchurch.org/dmc.
Speaking of Difference Makers, yesterday I received this update from Pastor Dennis about our Costa Rica Mission trip. He said "Pastor Trevor, Kevin Barrett, our Mission Team and Vicki and I are having a grand time down here in Costa Rica. We've been able to minister to lots of people in the communities around us, host a super successful Women's Event, preach in 5 Churches, and train leaders for two Churches. And today we will be providing encouragement and training for some local Pastors here in Turrialba.

 Phil and Gaby Triche have done a great job of planning for and hosting this trip. If you should ever want to do a family trip where the children and teens as well as adults can be involved in a variety of ministry activities, Turrialba is the place to go." Please be praying for these difference-makers as they travel and transition back to life in the United States.

Thanks so much for allowing me to share today in this Connecting PointIf you have any questions about our upcoming Difference Makers Conference on October 7th, you can contact me at johnf@celebrationchurch.org.

God bless you,

John Frady,

johnf@celebrationchurch.org
Executive Pastor of Spiritual Development

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