Thursday, September 27, 2012

Asking God to Do His Will by Lacy Ngo

God was putting his plan in place before I even knew what was happening.  I had just joined St. John’s United Methodist Church, and my husband and I were in the process of visiting Sunday Schools.  One Sunday, we randomly visited the Open Doors Class.  During the class, the teacher off-handedly mentioned the book The Narrow Road which was about a missionary named Brother Andrew.  I thought to myself that sounds like a good book to read.   Almost a year later I saw the sunday school teacher in the nursery, and I asked her again for the name of the book.  I quickly purchased the book, and my journey began...   Brother Andrew’s story was inspiring.   The things that he accomplished by listening to God’s call was amazing.  When he was truly doing something God asked him to do, God took care of every one of his needs to get the job at hand done.  (I thought this was interesting because we sometimes use God as a wishing well, but when we are truly following God’s wishes to help others; then, he will help us do THAT job).  In other words, if God tells us to do something, then he will help us get it done.  Some of the amazing things that happened in the book were: 

* Brother Andrew's damaged leg was healed when he prayed to God that he couldn’t do mission work with a hurt leg.
* Brother Andrew’s mission work was to take Bibles to persecuted countries where Bibles were 
not allowed.  Guards would not see smuggled Bibles when they were right on the seat of his car.
* If his money for missionary school was about to run out, the exact amount came to him just in 

One of my favorite story took place during Brother Andrews time at missionary school.  Brother Andrew and the other students were asked to do local missions as an assignment.  The students were divided into two groups.  They were given no money, food, or housing.  They were told that they were not suppose to ask churches or any people for help and were asked to trust that God will provide.  This was just an exercise meant to teach them how to trust God completely.  This didn’t mean that the missionary school thought that people/charities should not ask for donations; the school just wanted them to put all trust in God.  The students were also expected to tithe.  Brother Andrews group tithed at the beginning of each week no matter what challenges they had.  The other group planned on tithing if they had enough after they fulfilled their own needs.  Interestingly, the group who tithed no matter what, always had enough for themselves and the missions, while the other group was constantly running out of money and supplies.  God seemed to always answer the needs of Brother Andrews group no matter how small.  For example, his group was suppose to bring a cake to an event. The group was panicked about how they were going to get the money for the cake.  They even considered doing something they hadn’t done yet, which was asking people for donations.  Just when the decided against asking for others help, they received a package in the mail.  Inside the package was a cake sent to them by a loved one!  The giver did not know they needed a cake; she just thought it would be a nice gesture!
After reading the book, I began to pray and said to God that I want to do what He wants and asked Him to tell me what it is.  I figured if I really listened, I would see some amazing things happen just like Brother Andrew.  Basically, I was asking God to call on me.  Then God started talking...

Right after I read the book, St John’s started “The Call” series, which was suppose to help us learn how to hear and answer God’s call.
* Songs from our church bands were about “The Call.”  This is another amazing occurrence because the band does not know the sermon topics when choosing songs.
* I picked out a veggie tales movie for my son to watch not knowing that out of all the Bible stories, this movie was about Jonah trying to push away God’s call.
* I was showing my son pictures from his Children’s Bible, but we weren’t reading the words.  The bottom of each page had a one liner prayer.  I finally randomly read one of the prayers.  It was asking God to help us listen to his call!!

These events happened over and over so I knew God was telling me he is going to call on me.  Then I started thinking what was God going to tell me to do.   I was afraid that God was going to ask me to do something I don’t want to do.  What in the world was he going to ask me to do?  I still don’t know everything, but I know that I have become more aware of the needs of others.  Every morning I try to remember to pray for help seeing the needs of others.  Since then I can honestly say that I have randomly helped more people now.  Before this, I wanted to help, but I was too busy in my own little world to even notice the need. I take the time out of my day to visit my elderly loved ones more often, I more frequently notice when my family and friends need a helping hand, and I joined a service group.  I know I can do more, and God has been showing me more lately to let me know what I am suppose to do.  
I am even writing these stories because in response to answering God's call.  After reading the Brother Andrew book, I wrote down some of my talents that I thought God could use.  One that I enjoy is writing columns for the Rock Hill Herald.  I thought perhaps I can use my joy of writing to do God’s will.  Soon after I began to contemplate writing my stories, Rett mentioned during a sermon that a person’s call story is one of the greatest witnesses.   A persons personal story is only 2nd to the Bible when you are trying to witness to someone.  This, yet again, was another way God spoke to me. How amazing that as soon as I thought about writing my stories, Rett started talking about how important it is to tell our story!
  So I began writing down my stories.  Now, if I was stronger I would not have needed another nudge from God, but unfortunately fears and doubt began to creep in.  I had written some of my stories, but I began to think do I really want to share these stories with others.  Just when I started backing away, God called me again.  It took two sermons.  Twice literally right after I started doubting, the sermons talked about answering God’s call and even emphasized telling our own personal stories.  The words and phrasing used spoke to me so clearly that I got chills, and I could feel my eyes widening as I heard these sermons.  So here I am writing down one of my stories and sending it in for God to do his will.  -Lacy Ngo

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Lord, Be with My Children by Dana Hamilton

At the age of nine, I learned how losing a loved one can change your entire life and your entire way of living. My brother, Brandon, at age 14 passed away from a brain aneurism. He was born with heart problems and was in and out of the hospital in Charleston for his whole life. At age 2, he had open heart surgery. His life was by no means easy, and it definitely shaped his friendly, outgoing personality. He was an amazing brother who was very protective of me, his little sister.
His death shook my family and our way of life. Growing up as an only child for the second part of my childhood was very different. A piece of the puzzle was always missing, and in so many situations, I prayed that he was there with me. After seeing the hurt my parents have endured, I worry for my own children daily. I pray every day that God wraps his arms around my little boy, Whit, and my new baby girl, Cecilia. 
My faith has become even stronger since becoming a parent. I depend on God to relieve my daily stress and worries regarding my own children’s health and safety. We live in a dangerous and scary world, and the only way I won’t lock my children in our home each day to protect them is that I know God is their protector. 
The loss of my amazing older brother allows me to appreciate the time I have with my loved ones. Each day is cherished.  From my life experiences, I know each day is to be used to spread the word of God. We should  try to show God’s love to everyone because we never know when we will be called Home. 
Many Blessings,
Dana Hamilton 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Finding a New Home and Family at Church by Brett & Alana Charlton

Fulfilling Freedom Witness Moment (March 2012)

It is amazing how time flies...

It is hard to believe that only 4 years ago, we made a leap of faith to uproot our 
family. We left Raleigh, NC to move to Rock Hill, SC; a place that neither of us had
ever visited, and I had never heard of.  

Things were good in Raleigh.  Both Alana & I had good, secure jobs. We had lots of 
really good friends from college living nearby. We had our little piece of land with more 
house than we really needed, a yellow dog named Daisy, and had just welcomed our sweet little girl, Lily, into this world.  Everything was going really well except I had started to get a bit antsy. I was reaching that point in my career where I needed to make a change and as a new mom, Alana wanted to spend more time at home with Lily.

Amazingly, before I even started looking, I got a phone call.  It was a recruiter for 
3D Systems, located in Rock Hill, SC.  They had heard about me and wondered if I would be interested in an open position in their engineering department.  My first thought was, "Where the heck is Rock Hill, SC?”  I had heard of 3D Systems, but had to get out a map to find exactly where in SC we might be moving.  After much thought, discussion, and prayer; we made a leap of faith and left all the comforts we felt we had surrounded ourselves with in Raleigh to move here; a place where we had never visited, and knew nothing about. We did not know a sole upon arriving.  

It was a struggle that first year.  We lived in a one bedroom apartment with our dog and
our baby girl while we waited for our home to sell.  Lily learned to crawl in that apartment and enjoyed looking out the second floor apartment window for Daddy to come home from work.  You will all recall how things fell apart for the economy in 2008.  Houses that had been selling in a day or a week were now taking months at best.  We had originally planned on a max of 2 months before ours took 6 months.  And looking back, six months was actually pretty good for the times, but those six months felt like an eternity while we waited for someone to make an offer on our old home.  You can imagine the extra stress we were under during those the extra months of multiple bills and paying both a home mortgage and rent on an apartment.  But how fortunate we were when our old home sold when it did because the day we got the offer on our house was exactly one day after we had made a tentative offer on our current home here in Rock Hill.  

We started our church search in the summer of 2008.  Our first stop was St. John's United Methodist Church.  Why?  Well, the first reason was we both grew up attending United Methodist churches so that was the natural place to start.  The other was the location being in downtown Rock Hill.  We had our eyes set on a few other locations as well, but we really did not have any insight about any of the local United Methodist Churches.  

That first day, we parked in the gravel lot next to the St. Johns Children's Center and were pleasantly surprised when we entered.  So bright, so open, so friendly.  The nursery was clean and safe and perfect for young kids.  We signed Lily into the nursery using a computer touchscreen and were provided with a pager just in case we were needed during the service.  We felt really safe leaving Lily as we went off searching for the sanctuary.  Let me tell you, finding the sanctuary was no simple task! Thank goodness for the friendly guidance of some of the members or I don't know if we ever would have found the sanctuary.  After service, several different couples specifically sought us out because they did not recognize us. They all said hello, welcomed us, and encouraged us to return on another Sunday.  We were pleasantly surprised with how our visit to St. John's had gone, and we made a decision on our ride home that day that we were done with our church search.  The atmosphere was so welcoming and friendly and Alana had fallen head over heels for the Children's Center.  After all, your child's safety is the most important thing.

We took St. John's 101 and joined St. John's in the Fall of 2008. It just so happened that not too long afterwards we were surprised to find out that we were expecting again.  We welcomed baby boy Jack into this world in August 2009.  Jack was born early on a Sunday morning so I placed a call to let one of my friends at the church know Jack had been born and hoped he would share the news with our Sunday School class that morning.  Later that day, sitting in our hospital room, we tuned the TV to Comporium Channel 2 where the 11am service would be showing.  To our surprise, the birth of Johnny Allan Charlton (Jack), was announced to the church that very morning!  Later that week when we returned home from the hospital, a wooden blue stork telling the 
world that the newest "St. John's United Methodist Church" member had just been born was sitting in our front yard!  We had never heard of a Stork Ministry, but what a wonderful ministry that is.  And then our Sunday School class, the Pathfinders, supplied us with over two weeks of meals as we got adjusted to our expanded household.  Needless to say, St. John's was there when we needed them most.  

As time passed we have become more and more involved and utilized more and more of what St. John's has to offer.  From utilizing the nursery and both of our kids attending the preschool, to being involved with different ministries such as Hunger Outreach, Softball,Sunday School, Band of Brothers, Children's Council, Communications, Stewardship, and the Fulfilling Freedom Debt Reduction Campaign, we have come to love St. John's.  We don't just love this church, we are this church.

It is ironic to me that the debt reduction campaign is focused on paying for the Children’s Center since this was the biggest thing that brought us to this church.  That's the reason St. John's as a church built the Children's Center in the first place.  To bring young families that would help this church grow now in the community and to continue to grow in the future.  I promise that St. John's leap of faith in the decision to build the Children's Center will continue to pay huge dividends in the future of the church.

Speaking of a Debt Reduction Campaign, Alana & I have almost completed our own debt reduction campaign so we feel that we know what it means to sacrifice this for that in terms of money.  We've always wanted to give more, but when trying to figure out how to pay your own debts, its hard to justify increasing tithes each year.  When this debt campaign was announced, we both got to thinking & praying about what we could give.  We kind of avoided the subject altogether for a while we wrapped our minds around what we should do.  We were asked to serve on one of the committees, and yet we still had not made a commitment on what we should contribute.  Finally, me being an engineer, I broke out my trusty calculator and started figuring on what we currently give and how we can go up and beyond.  What could we give up so that we could give more?  We never really talked about where each of us were in the decision until I finally told Alana a number that had been floating in my head.  I did not know where it was going to come from, but I felt we could pull if off if we tied some strings and tightened our belts a bit.  Naturally, Alana thought I was nuts at first, but I was surprised how fast she agreed.  Since that decision, things have begun to happen that we never anticipated.  Without getting into specifics, money we had not anticipated being available all of a sudden appeared on the horizon.  This money made us feel like our commitment was going to be much easier to achieve than we initially thought.

Bottom line, we love this church and even though we were not here when you as a church made your own leap of faith to build the Children's Center, we are proud that we will get to help pay off the debt that brought us to this wonderful church.

Brett & Alana Charlton


Sunday, September 2, 2012

Seeing God with the Help of a Child by Lacy Ngo

October 26, 2009, my beautiful little boy was born.  Everything went well.  He was a healthy baby except for a minor hydrocele, also known as swollen testicles.  The doctors said this was not unusual and that the hydrocele usually goes away on its own before the age of one.  However, if the hydrocele did not go away by one years old, then; my son may need a minor surgery especially if the hydrocele turns out to be a hernia.  Soon after my little boy’s first birthday, I noticed that his testicles were red.  Knowing about the hydrocele, I decided to get him checked out.  We took him to the doctor, who decided he should go straight to the urologist.  I was shocked, when the doctor suggested going to the urologist immediately.  It was now after 5:00 and the doctor was going to meet us at his already closed office.   I started thinking the worst.  On the way to the urologist, my son suddenly projectile vomited all over the car, car seat, and me.  I then became extremely worried.  Our worries were put to rest, when the doctor concluded that although my son did have a hernia and did need surgery, it was not an emergency.  The surgery could be scheduled for a later date.  The surgery would only take a couple of hours and my son would get to go home the same day of the surgery, but my son would have to be put to sleep.  My logical mind, knew this was a minor surgery, but the protective mother began to panic as the day approached.  I had heard of babies having bad reactions to anesthesia, and by the night before the surgery, I was extremely stressed.  Although, I was nervous, I did our normal bedtime routine just as I always do.  First, I laid my son on the changing table to change his diaper and put on his pjs.  Then, I bowed my head and said prayers while he was still lying on the changing table.  That night I said a special prayer, asking God to please help us know he is there with us during the surgery.  Then, I picked up my son and carried him to the rocking chair so that we could read our bedtime stories.  While I was walking to the rocking chair, my son looked straight up at one spot on the ceiling and casually said, “Hey.”  I was puzzled and asked, “Hilt, who are you saying hey to?”  Hilt simply replied, “God.”  Chills ran up my arm.  First of all, I bow my head when we pray, but Hilt looked up.  I asked God to help us feel his presence, and he did.  The surgery went smoothly and my son was home in a few hours.  -Lacy Ngo