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Archive for the ‘God Story’ Category

ESL teachers

ESL teachers

I can’t believe it has been three years since the Redemption church merger. Even though Redemption has never been a home church for me, I’ve been an off and on attendee since their early days. I love how God uses them to reach all areas of Arizona with the gospel with their multiple church plants. Tonight Pastor Riccardo shared many stories from the past three years of how God has been faithful and good to the church. I got to attend the service for a few reasons. Redemption likes to share God stories of how members of the congregation are being used in the community by God. Pastor Mullins interviewed my ESL director Stephanie on stage about how we are reaching the refugee community here locally in Tempe. Our students are mostly from Somalia and Redemption church oversees our teaching program. In fact, many of our volunteer teachers are members of Redemption.

Teaching ESL has been such a humbling and rewarding experience for me. My involvement came from when God called me to attend a Uzbekistan peace feast in November of 2011. Even though I had no idea why I was meant to go, God opened my eyes to the refugee community for the first time. Soon after I became an english teacher and now here I am two and half years later still teaching. Hearing the story of Redemption church tonight and my own personal story remind me of the Experiencing God study – Watch where God is working and join Him there. Trust me, do that and He will do the rest.

But my main reason I attended church tonight is because of the friend I brought. He was an old drinking buddy of mine from back in college. I haven’t seen him in 15 years, yet we are Facebook friends. He reach out to me earlier this week and mentioned life had become purposeless for him. He has been inspired by how I’ve been living my life and wanted to know what it is that kept me going these days. I laugh because I’m such a messy person, but I know it is Christ that He is seeing in me as the Spirit has really been working through my life these past couple years. He just moved to Tempe and I offered to introduce him to Redemption church because they are in the area. We had a great time catching up and I felt for him as I have been in that place of searching for significance many times in my life. I spent most of my night praying for him at church and was excited for him to hear the God-stories they were taking about from the stage. I pray that God grab a hold of him and that he becomes another God-story that will be shared to others someday.

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Granite Mountain Hotshots

I had the blessing of knowing Ron Merrell as a Pastor, mentor and a friend.  He is a hero of mine. He has since moved on to California and now recently God has him back in Arizona in Prescott at Heights Church. My first reaction to hearing about this was – why Prescott? I have nothing against Prescott. It’s a beautiful little city about an hour north of Phoenix and it definitely has that small town feel to it. But that’s my sin nature saying that God can’t do something amazing in a small town like Prescott. God is always working. 

On June 28, 2013, lightning ignited the Yarnell Hill Fire. Yarnell is small community next to Prescott. Prescott Fire Department’s interagency Granite Mountain Hotshots were there to respond and the fire overran and killed 19 of the firefighters (only one survived) two days later. According to the National Fire Protection Association, it was the greatest loss of life for firefighters in a wildfire since 1933, the deadliest wildfire of any kind since 1991, and the greatest loss of firefighters in the United States since the September 11 attacks (Wikipedia). This was a horrible tragedy and the nation grieved with this community over our fallen heroes.

As horrible as this was, it opened the opportunity for the church to be the church. Led by efforts of Ron and the staff, Heights church was able to provide comfort and love to the families of the victims. They helped organize the memorial services and community gatherings to honor the firefighters. And my good friend Ron was able to lead the opening prayer for the nationally broadcasted memorial service in which Vice president Joe Biden attended.

I love how God works and I love His timing in situations. I love how He gives us (the church) opportunities to partake in Kingdom opportunities that point people to Christ. A lot of things in this broken world don’t always make sense, but knowing God is in control puts situations like this into perspective and gives us a sense of hope. I’m sure even Ron wondered why God called him to Prescott. Six months later, He used him and the church to bring glory to Him in the face of tragedy.

Pastor Ron Merrell leads a prayer during a memorial service for Yarnell firefighters at Tim's Toyota Center in Prescott Valley Arizona

Pastor Ron leads the memorial service in prayer

Ron’s message on the Yarnell tragedy and a promo video for some of opportunities he has had to speak at other churches

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I love what God is doing with my amazing friend Nicole and her journey with Venture Expeditions. Her team is traveling from Seattle to New York City to raise money and  awareness for sex trafficking in Burma and Thailand. They just reached the 1,000 mile mark! Follow her journey at Underdog Bike.

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Seattle to mid-Montana. 1,000 miles. Our two-week venture has taken us through 13 city destinations with miles upon miles of various terrain and weather, hundreds of faces welcoming us in, and 2,400 miles left to explore. 

The uniqueness of this trip isn’t the seemingly impossible expedition; it’s the change that happens within. Climbing onto a bike and lasting for 8-hours is a very tangible goal. However, our team didn’t sign up for a vacation – we wanted a challenge. And the challenge is the sacrifice. We sacrificed our summer, which isn’t a long amount of time, to climb mountains, ride hundreds of miles a day, and understand God’s love for the oppressed. Right now, we are just scratching the surface. 

Our bodies are hurting, our hearts are tired, and some nights, it’s all the energy we have to maintain a simple dinner conversation. But, we do. Something keeps us going…

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Reblogged from Land of a Thousand Hills blog:

This week we bring you a great article on our friends at 8th Day: Coffee and Culture. We love what Shane is doing there! If you’re in Phoenix, check them out HERE!

Drink Coffee, Do Good

Coffee Shop Aspires to Bring Community to Downtown Phoenix

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By Alicia Canales

Perhaps the building’s former life as Just Breathe Wellness, a yoga studio, gives it the relaxing atmosphere. Maybe it’s what the building, now 8th Day Coffee & Culture, stands for that provides a sense of peace and calmness when entering through the black outlined doors.

Eighth day stands for “eternity,” or the “eternal day” in ancient terms, co-owner Shane Copeland says. The definition creates the purpose of the coffee shop’s 4,000 square foot space, which is to convey light, creativity and relationship.

“There’s enough darkness in our world,” Copeland says. “Creativity is a beautiful thing. As a place, we want music and arts and culture to be present and relationship is at the heart of it.”

The eighth day meaning carries on when 8th Day closes on Sunday. The building hosts St. George’s Anglican Community, of which Copeland is the pastor. The coffee shop and church are separate entities with some relational connection. The same calming ambiance is present when people in the building gather to worship God or gather over a cup of coffee.

A sense of community drives Copeland as a co-owner and pastor. St. George’s met at Roosevelt Community Church for four years before leasing the 8th Day building. Copeland says reconstruction began in April 2012 and took four months. The main room used to be a yoga workout room. Copeland says workers removed mirrors, knocked down some walls and installed fire sprinklers. Now, his congregation has a place of its own.

“We kind of felt nomadic and not settled,” Copeland says. “Having been able to move in here on Sundays has given us a sense of home.”

For 8th Day, it’s a place for good coffee and to connect with friends. Amber Hunter, a barista with curled strawberry-blonde hair, said she enjoys having a front row seat to watch relationships form or grow as people drink their coffee.

“I think this is a space you really have to come in and experience for yourself because I do think there’s something special here,” Hunter says. “We’re just at the very beginning of what this space is going to be, so I’m excited.”

Eighth Day, located on the corner of Second and Garfield streets, is welcoming from its exterior. Its warm red paint exudes an air of cordiality that draws a person closer. Trees, ordained with strings of lights and white paper lanterns, are planted in the middle of the patio.

Opening the door, a rich aroma of coffee beans invites the customer in. To the left, people talk amongst each other or type on their laptops. To the right, a barista behind the coffee bar greets regulars as old friends.

The baristas interact in a familial way, talking and joking amongst each other during a lull in the day. It’s rare to look over at the bar and not see the employees smiling. Hunter, also a St. George member, says the employees avoid gossip so no bitterness is between them.

“We’re very quick to work through that stuff with each other so that we can continue to support each other and that makes a huge difference,” she says.

Their love and connection with each other extends over the coffee bar. Alexandra Korsick, an Arizona State University justice studies major, comes to 8th Day twice a week with friends. She says the customer service is the friendliest she’s ever seen, and she appreciates that Copeland works behind the bar every so often.

“He’s so nice. I think it’s not often you meet an owner,” Korsick says. “You can tell he cares about it, which is a good thing to see.”

Throughout the work week, sofas, cushioned chairs and wooden tables fill half of the main lounge area. The other half is closed off by folding, black-trimmed dividers. Between the cracks, it’s possible to see sound equipment. Eighth Day encourages local artists to contact its art director or sign up for its open mic nights.

On Sundays, the dividers come down. Members rearrange the furniture and bring out chairs. The congregation faces the back of the room, where a table covered in white and purple cloths and a wooden cross stand. Copeland, who wore jeans and a blue-white plaid shirt two days earlier, dawns a white robe with black sleeves and collar. The wardrobe change seems to be the only difference in Copeland. His shoulder-length, curly black hair frames his oval face. His powerful tone draws his congregation members to listen just as the baristas cannot ignore his orders. As he leads the sermon, he uses the same hand gestures and smiles as he does when welcoming customers.

Shirts showing 8th Day’s slogan line a corner in the coffee bar area: Drink coffee, do good. This is the motto of its coffee provider, Land of a Thousand Hills, which allowed 8th Day to also use. Land of a Thousand Hills provides community-trade coffee from Rwanda, Haiti and Thailand. Eighth Day pays twice the fair trade amount. Three dollars go to the third-world farmers instead of half that price, so farmers can make a sustainable living.

“There’s something really powerful about being able to go and buy something you use every day, like coffee, and know that you’re making a difference in the world,” Hunter says.

The building also offers a back room for studying or conferences. St. George’s church creates a nursery from a separate room during Sundays. On the patio out front, customers bask in the sun in wooden chairs. Copeland says more people, regardless of faith, discover ways to inhabit the building.

“We’d want the community to be able to use it across the spectrum of life and, obviously, that would include spiritual as well as other components because we believe in the holistic need of people,” Copeland says.

Copeland says everyone has opinions around religion, and he doesn’t desire to argue with those upset about 8th Day hosting a church. Both entities, while separate, build community, he says. The Christian perspective of loving God and your neighbor as yourself motivates Copeland and workers, some whom are members, in the shop and church.

“We just want to be present at the table, in the community doing good, blessing the community,” Copeland says. “For people who think that religion doesn’t benefit community, all I can say is this is what we’re doing.”

Article Source: http://www.ecollegetimes.com/student-life/drink-coffee-do-good-1.2822302

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Sometimes you hear a God story that just blows you away. My friends the Totra’s are a family that are living out their lives missionally. They get the gospel and they are all about Jesus. Even during some financial hardships they have been trusting God that He will provide. I have been in community with them for some time and Dallas has become a solid brother in Christ to me. Dallas and Sofia have two kids and are trying for a third. They thought they lost the baby until Dallas brought this prayer request to our group tonight. We all laid had hands on him in prayer and got this news the next day about baby Anya:

So at the beginning of January, Sophia had what we thought was the miscarriage of our third child. Three days prior to that we felt God had highlighted a name that we would use for our baby if it was a girl. Her name would be Anya meaning Resurrection. So three days afterward we were pretty shocked to think that we no longer had this baby. Not having gone to the Doctor’s since she wasn’t having any medical problems we decided that it was over and time to move on. Well Sophia’s belly was not getting smaller, but the opposite. I kept saying…”your belly is growing and it isn’t because of what you ate!” Before long God was leading us through some friends to really be fighting for our baby in prayer and have it checked when we can. So that was what we did and this morning we found our that indeed we have a 17 week old baby Anya Joy Totra growing very well! So whether it never was a miscarriage or a resurrection, God is always good and we thank Him because He is awesome! Anya Joy Totra coming mid July 2013

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Late last year, God led me to this little coffee shop in Phoenix. It has been amazing to see how he has used this little community in downtown Phoenix to change my life. Anywhere from taking pictures to being an advocate for Food for the Hungry and Land of a Thousand Hills or just drinking great coffee with an amazing community of people deep in the heart of the art district all came from hanging out at 8th Day Coffee & Culture. God is working here! He is bridging a community of faith through the local art scene and the story of community-trade coffee in Rwanda. It’s just amazing to see and be a part of! And how awesome that they are located right dead center in the heart of downtown Phoenix – a place city busting with a growing urban and arts community.

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“Eternal Sunshine of Bird City”

Just recently, Joseph Sentrock Perez painted this on the outside wall of 8th Day. It’s an amazing mural called Eternal Sunshine of Bird City. Sentrock moved here from Chicago and has become quite a well-known artist here in the local Phoenix art scene. Here is Sentrock describing his inspiration behind painting this:

I painted this on 8th day cafe, a coffee spot in downtown Phx. The phrase 8th day represented eternity. That’s why I wrote Eternal Sunshine of Bird City, a play off of the movie. I wanted it to signify an eternal blessing on the city Phoenix. Sharing our art and expression will forever bless the city of Phoenix aka Bird City. 

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Art work displayed on the walls of 8th Day

A lot of the amazing art work displayed on the walls of 8th Day is organized by Steve Malakowsky (Hope thru Art). He is an amazing artist and has a huge connection with the local art scene. One of things I love is his project to display art from the homeless population here in Phoenix. The funds made go back into helping them out. He’s a great guy and I love his heart for art and people. Tonight, the Food for the Hungry artists displayed their art for the First Friday art walk and were able to showcase God’s heart for the less fortunate through their pictures and paintings.

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I had to voice my excitement!

So one of the most amazing God stories to come out of this place is the story of Juliana and Daniel. I met Juliana while teaching refugees last summer. God has used her in so many ways in my life that I can’t even write it all. She’s an amazing talented woman and I am so thankful for her friendship. In fact, I found out about 8th Day through her. Daniel is the manager of 8th Day and has become a dear friend and brother. They met at 8th Day and have recently got engaged here. I love this story and was in tears when I heard about this. I am so happy for them! Pastor Shane of St. George’s Anglican Community was on hand to bless them and I pray for a long and happy marriage for them! God is good and He is working everywhere!

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Juliana and Daniel with Pastor Shane

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