Thank You

Dear friends,

As many of us are still recovering from Vacation Bible School, I can’t help but reflect with great satisfaction on the ways I saw God at work. Each year during VBS, we ask the kids to share their God sightings, and it’s always encouraging to hear of the ways that these children are seeing God at work in their lives and through their involvement in VBS.

Trek Rockrambler
Trek Rockrambler

As your pastor, I can’t begin to list all the God sightings I have had as we have ministered together to show God’s love to these children and teach them about God’s power and love. My heart is full as I think about all the ways I saw so many of you giving generously of your time and energy to make this VBS another wonderful example of ministry and grace. What a treat it was to see some of you taking on different responsibilities in VBS this year and doing so with joy, smiles, and an evident commitment to bless the kids. What a blessing it was to see so many people jumping in and doing whatever needed to be done. What a gift it was to hear parents talk gratefully about how they felt welcomed and how their kids truly experienced love and care through you all. What a pleasure it was to hear children learning and being able to discuss the teachings of Scripture. What a joy it was to see the energy of the kids as they sang the Bible School songs and to hear parents describe their kids singing the songs all week long at home and in the car.

There are so many reasons that I give thanks for the privilege of being in ministry with you all at HVBC, but this year’s Everest VBS truly filled me again with gratitude for your commitment to love and teach children. Thanks to all who worked, prayed, and supported this VBS. May God take the seeds planted and bring a wonderful harvest in the lives of the children and their families.

Trek Rockrambler (aka Pastor Bill)

Random Thoughts from a Scattered Mind

Dear friends,
Though many are traveling and enjoying a change of pace during summer months, it remains a busy time in the church. As a result, it is time for another exciting edition of Random Thoughts from a Scattered Mind.

  • I hope you will join us Sunday for worship and the luncheon afterwards as we honor Ken and Christine Smith as Ken retires. The choir is preparing some gorgeous music, and it should be a true blessing. Ken and Christine have given much time and energy to Hope Valley for more than eight years, and Ken has done well in preparing the choir, ensembles, and soloists to lead us in worship. I have also appreciated his leadership in preparing Christmas cantatas and music for other special seasons and services. We will miss Ken and Chris-tine and wish them God’s blessings, guidance, and joy.
  • Like you, I continue to grieve over the tragic deaths of the 9 members of Emanuel AME Church. I really can’t understand how anyone could choose to act with such hatred and racism, causing such pain to others. At the same time, our grief over such blatant examples of racism and violence must drive us to prayer and a re-newed commitment to faithfulness. As I said on Sunday, we should devote ourselves to praying for those who grieve, praying for God’s Kingdom to come and His will to be done in our world, and praying that God will cleanse us of the anger, racism, and prejudice we carry in our own hearts and souls. While the shooter has demonstrated an extreme example of racism, we all must acknowledge the judgmental attitudes within us and pray for God’s cleansing and healing so that we might live out God’s love in our relationships. In addition, we as God’s people must invest ourselves in modeling and seeking reconciliation, in building bridges of grace, and in making God’s love visible as we reach out to and treat all people as God’s beloved children.
  • Please remember that the Hispanic Mission Church will begin meeting with us on Sunday, July 5. I am very excited about this partnership and the opportunity it will provide us to make new friends, build the Body of Christ, and demonstrate that God’s love crosses cultures and language barriers. Let us pray that God will bless this partnership and work through both churches to accomplish His will and build His Kingdom. This is a wonderful opportunity to work with those from different backgrounds and to demonstrate true hospitality.

Bill

Summer is a busy time…

Dear friends,

Summer is always a very busy time in the life of Hope Valley Baptist Church. Vacation Bible School is approaching rapidly, and it promises to be another amazing week of helping children learn about the Good News of God’s love. I am grateful to all who have already signed up to assist with VBS and those who have made the commitment to be part of the Prayer Team that will surround and under-gird this important ministry with prayer. If you have not yet signed up to work in VBS or to be part of our Prayer Team, please do so on the church website. You may also contact Amy Herring or call Robin Wimberley in the church office to let us know how you can assist.

I am also tremendously grateful for your vote to support the partnership with the Hispanic Mission led by Pastor Julio DeLeon. The mission church will use Spanish version of our name, Valle de Es-peranza Iglesia Bautista, and will begin meeting for worship in the Fellowship Hall on Sunday, July 5. You will find a note of gratitude from Pastor Julio here, and their members are eager to begin this new phase of their ministry and development.

I am convinced this partnership can and will enrich both congregations. I know you will demonstrate great hospitality to these brothers and sisters as they make this transition and partner with us. It is also exciting to consider ways the two churches might work together in ministry, missions, and worship. Please join me in praying faithfully for this mission church, for our ministry together, and for God to inspire and empower us as we work together to spread His love and make disciples of the people in our community and beyond.

Blessings,
Bill

Listening for the Soul: Christian Caregiving

Dear friends,

Most of us have seen friends or loved ones encounter times of grief, sickness, or difficulty. We want to respond with love, compassion, and assistance, but we often feel overwhelmed. We want to help, but we aren’t sure what we can do to be truly helpful. We want to say something encouraging, but we really aren’t sure what to say.

Recognizing that many of us struggle with feelings of self-doubt in such situations, I will be teaching a 3-week series entitled, Listening for the Soul: Christian Caregiving. The series will begin during Prayer Meeting on Wednesday, May 6 and will continue May 13 and 20. In the first session, I will focus on how we respond to someone when the bad news is fresh. This session will include thoughts about what we can do as well as things we ought never to say to someone facing a crisis. In the second and third sessions, we will discuss how we as God’s people can encourage and facilitate more in-depth conversations with people about where God is at work in their lives and how we can help people address the real questions and struggles of daily life. The latter two weeks grow out of a growing conviction that too often we in the church maintain relationships that remain superficial and don’t allow us sufficient room to be honest about our struggles or to talk authentically about our faith, our doubts, and our awareness of God’s presence. It is my hope and prayer that together we will discover ways we can offer Christian care and friendship that will connect us more deeply with each other and those around us.

On a different topic, I have been heart-broken by the news reports I have seen from Nepal as well as from Baltimore this week. At this point, we can and should be joining other believers in prayer for these situations and for God’s grace-filled work in these and many other places. In addition, there are already many options to support disaster relief efforts in Nepal. If you would like to make a donation through the church to help with disaster relief and rebuilding in Nepal, you may do so by marking your check and envelope for Nepal Relief. We will pass these donations along to World Vision which is already on the ground in Nepal. In their initial phase, their efforts are targeting 100,000 people in the worst affected areas of Nepal. You may read more about what World Vision is doing on their website . If you would like more information on some of the other groups providing relief and assistance in Nepal, please feel free to contact me, and I will help point you to other disaster relief groups you might choose to support. Above all, let us pray for God’s pres-ence and love to be visible and life-changing in the midst of these crises.

Bill

“Go for it, Pop.”

Dear friends,

This past Sunday, as I examined Jesus’ two appearances to the disciples as recorded in John 20:19-31, I noted that Jesus told the disciples, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” Then He breathed new life into the disciples, telling them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” It was a powerful moment of commissioning, a commissioning I believe we all receive as followers of Jesus.

As a Christian and a pastor, I am inspired by those who follow God’s call in their lives. I read about such a man several years ago in the Atlanta paper. The article focused on Wheeler Conkling, who was 85 years old at the time. A World War II veteran and a retired chemist and CEO of a small company, Conkling was preparing to move to Honduras to live and work as an unpaid volunteer with an interdenominational ministry in one of the poorest regions in the world. Conkling and his wife raised 5 children and after retirement, he was involved in working with several churches to set up a homeless shelter for itinerant hotel workers. His wife died in 2003 after 62 years of marriage, and in the midst of his grieving, he also began to ponder what to do with the rest of his life. He had always been a runner or walker so he was in good shape and didn’t want to become sedentary. So, he signed up for a mission trip with his Episcopal Church. While some in the group weren’t sure what to think about an 84 year old man joining them for the trip, they soon found that he worked incredibly hard climbing scaffolding and helping in various projects. Soon after, he made a second trip to Honduras and spent two weeks there, learning about the ministry and bonding with the children there. He says, “I fell in love with the need – and the children.”

When he returned from that second trip, his children encouraged him to return to a more “normallike” life, but he investigated joining the Peace Corps and other groups before praying and wondering if there could be a permanent place for him in Honduras. He contacted the director there and was assured that there were plenty of opportunities for him, even though he couldn’t speak Spanish. Conkling decided to go. When his family heard about his decision, they called a family meeting, gathering from around the country to interrogate him. At the end, after hearing him share his heart, there was a consensus, “Go for it, Pop.” One daughter said, “All five of us are a little sad now knowing we’re losing the proximity of him, but for his soul, this is really what he needs to fill it up.” The children even began planning their own trip to join him in the work in Honduras. One volunteer who worked with Conkling said it this way, “He has been an incredible inspiration to all of us. The children there love him like a grandfather. He has a heart to do this work, and his faith is so strong – he has a lot of compassion for these people who have absolutely nothing.”

This sounds to me like a man who recognized the call of God and discovered the peace of God and the presence of God’s Spirit in being sent to continue the work of Jesus. While others might have discouraged him, he felt God’s call and responded. Perhaps his example can inspire us as well. For we must not forget the message of Jesus, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”

Blessings,
Bill

Hear It Again … For The First Time

Dear friends,

Some years ago, the makers of Corn Flakes began an advertising campaign to re-introduce its cereal to the American public. There were several commercials, each showing a person sitting alone in a kitchen with a bowl of Corn Flakes in front of them. The person would look at the cereal and describe how dull and boring it looked. He would predict that such a cereal would never sell with all the fancy choices on the market. After all, there were no nuts, berries, animals, marshmallows, or anything exciting. Then, however, he would taste the cereal and a satisfied smile would cross his face. And he would look toward the camera and ask, “What are they?” Much to the person’s surprise, the announcer would reply, “Corn Flakes.” As the person would nod with approval, the viewers would hear the new slogan, “Taste them again…for the first time.”

“Taste them again…for the first time.” It was a clever slogan for a cereal that many people had grown up with and long forgotten with newer choices on the market. With slight modification, I believe it can be an appropriate invitation for this holy season. This week, we remember the most significant events in human history, the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, yet many people are so familiar with the story that we have trouble getting excited about it. Amidst busy schedules, new outfits, egg hunts, abundant candy, and family gatherings, the story is easily lost in the background. We’ve heard the message so many times that it no longer surprises or amazes us anymore. Pastors like myself struggle to find a new way to make this old, old story fresh and attention-grabbing.

While we know the death and resurrection stories well, I invite you to join me in listening for God’s voice and experiencing the Good News afresh. In addition to the corporate worship , I encourage you to spend time reading and reflecting on the Scriptural accounts of Jesus’ last days and hours. Meditate on what Jesus willingly did in submitting to God’s will, facing both verbal and physical abuse without striking back before enduring death on a cross. What difference might it make in our spiritual lives if we prayerfully reflect on how much Jesus must love us to accept such a fate? Then, as we reach Easter, let us remember that Jesus has already overcome the power of sin and death in this world. Why do we often feel so defeated and hopeless when we celebrate and worship the risen Christ?

During this holy and life-transforming season, may we open our lives and hearts to the amazing Good News, ready to hear it again…for the first time.

Blessings,
Bill

P.S. What a blessing it was to hear the Mwangaza Children’s Choir on Sunday! Thanks to all of you who made this concert and visit possible (especially Amy Sauls and the Sauls family) and also to those who donated generously to the love offering . We collected $2048.33 to support the work of Africa Renewal Ministries, including $84.00 received through the raffle of the pillow made by Joan Burke. Congratulations to Julie Stoops who won the beautiful pillow.

Operation Inasmuch

Dear friends,

This is an incredibly busy season at HVBC, but even as we approach Holy Week and Easter, I encourage you to make plans now to join us for our annual Operation Inasmuch on Saturday, April 18th. It is time to begin signing up for projects and collecting items we will need to make this Operation Inasmuch a successful day. Please note that the Missions Team is asking for donations of various items that will be part of our Inasmuch effort. You can find the list of items requested here. Please help us by bringing these items and placing them in the designated container in the children’s hallway.

We also ask that you begin prayerfully considering how you can serve during Operation Inasmuch. The Missions Team has lined up the following projects and believes there are ways that all ages and abilities will be able to participate.

  • Sing for and visit with residents at 2 retirement communities – this group will sing at Durham Regent and at Carillon. After sharing some hymns and songs, there will be a time to talk with the residents and pass out goodie bags that are being prepared by our children in their Sunday School class.
  • Block Party at McDougald Terrace – this group will prepare and serve a hot dog lunch and will also have a variety of games, crafts, and activities for the residents to en-joy. We will also be distributing toiletry kits. We will need a large group of people to coordinate the various activities and to engage the residents in conversation.
  • Staining several wooden areas at Urban Ministries of Durham – this project needs about 4 volunteers.
  • Outdoor clean-up and yard work at Urban Ministries – this project will work at cleaning some areas around Urban Ministries and if we can secure some mulch, these volunteers will also be spreading the mulch to help the grounds look clean and neat.
  • Sorting clothes at Urban Ministries – this group of 6 to 8 volunteers will assist the clothing ministry of Urban Ministries by sorting and organizing clothing donations.
  • Writing notes of appreciation to local police officers – this group will prepare notes of encouragement and support to be given to local public servants.
  • Preparing casseroles for persons staying at The Caring House while undergoing medical care or treatment at Duke Hospital – whether you can attend on April 18 or not, we will be collecting frozen casseroles that will be delivered to The Caring House so that they can be reheated when needed.
  • Pack bags of food to support the BackPack Buddies program at Githens Middle School – because many students go to homes without adequate food supplies, this group will pack bags of needed food items that will be delivered to Githens where they will be sent home with students so that the students will have access to meals when they are not in school.
  • Packing Bean Soup mixture for the food pantry at Urban Ministries – this group will take designated amounts of various types of beans, pasta, and seasonings and combine them in Ziploc bags to be distributed to people in need.
  • Collecting toys for the Make-A-Wish Foundation – we will be collecting toys that will be distributed to children dealing with life-threatening illness and to their siblings.

Blessings,
Bill

Spring is Sneaking In

Like many of you, I am growing weary of snow and ice. The weather has certainly wreaked havoc with our church schedule and plans, and I always hate to make decisions about canceling or postponing worship services and funerals. Through it all, however, I am grateful to those members who have responded to requests to shovel snow/ice and make it safer to get our members to the church for scheduled activities and times of worship. Thanks also for the flexibility you have shown when the weather has forced adjustments to our plans, and we will be very appreciative if you will help us make up for the offerings we missed when we had to cancel worship on March 1.

With all the winter weather, however, I feel like a very busy spring is sneaking up on us. You will notice that this newsletter is filled with announcements and upcoming opportunities for worship, ministry, and fellowship.

In particular, I encourage you to note a couple opportunities to support God’s work financially. During the Lent and Easter seasons, we promote our Easter Missions Offering to support missionaries and missions work in North America and around the world. You again have the option to support the Global Missions Offering of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship or the Annie Armstrong Offering of the Southern Baptist Convention. Envelopes for both offerings can be found in the pew racks in the sanctuary. Our church goal for this offering is $2,000, and I feel confident that we can collect at least that much to support the spreading of the Gospel.

I also invite you to note the announcement about the CROP Hunger Walk and to take advantage of the opportunity to support hunger ministries here at home and around the world. We have a large group of church members participating in the walk. Please prayerfully consider seeking out one or more of these walkers to make a contribution to support hunger relief. We live in a world where the disparity between the haves and have-nots grows wider each year, and those of us blessed to have more than enough are called by the Gospel to feed the hungry and care for the poor. The CROP Hunger Walk is one of many ways we as a congregation work to fulfill this responsibility.

In addition to the offering of our financial resources to missions and ministry, please make plans to join us for our annual Operation Inasmuch on April 18. The Missions Team is working diligently to organize projects that will allow us to serve and make a difference in our community. We hope to see many of you as we spend the day doing God’s work and being the presence of Christ for those who live in our area.

Blessings,
Bill

Collecting Dust

Dear friends,

Beth Felker Jones, a professor at Wheaton College, tells of the time her 6th grade teacher announced that they were going to begin a secret experiment. The kids all perked up and listened closely. The study was to focus on household dust, and the kids would get to study the dust from their own homes under a microscope to find out what it contained. The teacher asked the students to collect dust from their homes, but were told to do so without letting their mothers know. The secrecy was necessitated by the rumor that the mothers would shut down the experiment if they knew that dust bunnies from their homes were being collected for analysis at the school.

We can understand the resistance of those mothers to having their dust collected for study. After all, most of us like to hide our dust and dirt from others. We clean our homes before having company. Those of us who don’t always keep a spotless home like to try to convince others that we do better than we really do.

Of course, most of us do this not only at home, but also in our lives. We generally invest significant energy in hiding our “dirt” and struggles from others and in trying to convince the world that we are clean and have our lives together. We put up a good front, even to church, in hopes that no one will recognize that our lives are messy and less than ideal behind the masks we try to wear.

We have now entered into the season of Lent, the forty days leading to Easter. Through the history of the church, this season has been a time for believers to practice self-examination and repentance. Taken seriously, this is a time to stop hiding the truth about ourselves and acknowledge that we are broken, sinful, and in need of God’s forgiveness and cleansing. It is a time to let go of the false images we create and to be reminded that we are filled with mixed motives, self-centeredness, and other attitudes and feelings we try to bury deep out of the sight of others. Even as we shake our heads at the violence and hatred we see in the world, this is a time when we need to acknowledge honestly the hate and prejudices that still exist in our own hearts.

Through our worship this season as well as through our own devotional and prayer times, let us approach the Lenten season with a commitment to consider prayerfully where God wants to bring changes to our hearts, minds, attitudes, and actions. Let us acknowledge our failures before God and open our lives to God’s transforming touch. For we are beginning a journey to the cross, one that calls us to deny ourselves and follow Jesus.

Blessings,
Bill

P.S. Since ice and snow prevented us from having our Ash Wednesday service as planned, we have rescheduled the service for Wednesday, February 25 at 6:30 p.m. Though it won’t be Ash Wednesday officially, this is an important service with valuable reminders for our faith. Hope you can join us!

Please Join Us

I am excited to let you know that Marc and Kim Wyatt will be speaking during Prayer Meeting on Wednesday, February 11th at 6:30 p.m. Marc and Kim are Cooperative Baptist Fellowship missionaries who specialize in ministering to refugees, immigrants, and other internationals by connecting them with local congregations. The Wyatts served originally in Thailand and then spent many years serving in Canada where their work with international populations in some of Canada’s largest cities helped them recognize a new way of being missionaries.

Given the influx of people from all over the world into our area, Marc and Kim, along with CBF, recognize that international missions is no longer just about sending people to the uttermost parts of the earth. Missions opportunities are all around us, and the Wyatts are now liv-ing in Raleigh and focusing their efforts on connecting churches in the Triangle area to the internationals living, studying, and working in our midst. In a recent article on the Baptist News Global website, Kim de-scribes the work this way, “I say that I am a matchmaker. I match newly arrived folks … with Christians who have probably lived in the same house for 25 years.”

I recently had the privilege of meeting and spending some time with Marc and Kim and am very excited about bringing them back to HVBC. They spoke at Hope Valley several years ago during their tenure in Canada, and Kim is the niece of our member, Brenda Pendergraft. I am impressed by their passion for and resourcefulness in ministry, and I look forward to exploring ways that they can assist us in growing more effective in our outreach to our community.

I hope you will make every effort to join us for Prayer Meeting on February 11th to meet or become reacquainted with the Wyatts. It promises to be a good evening and will hopefully be the beginning of a partnership that will benefit the ministry of the Wyatts and of Hope Valley Baptist Church.

Blessings,
Bill