Last week I was convinced I had lost my cell phone for the second time since we’ve been missionaries in Macedonia. In reality it was God just working behind the scenes once again, turning my brokenness into something beautiful.Hurrying to get to the refugee camp after a youth baseball practice that ran a little late, I put my cell phone on top of the rental car as I was putting things in the trunk. After a history of losing coffee mugs, DVD rentals and other cell phones—because of poor logic in car roof placement—I don’t know what I was thinking! I’m just always glad I haven’t set one of my children up there being absent minded! After driving 10-15 minutes, I finally realized my cell phone is gone, panic, and return to the parking lot with my brothers, Maci and Christian, only to search in vain. “It’s a goner,” we all commiserated! Then my wife, Tiffany, calls and informs me that a 16-year-old boy has found my phone and would like to return it to its rightful owner. Are you kidding me? This just does NOT happen here in the land that invented the black market for stolen passports, bicycles and cell phones! True to his word, we meet Maksim on the way out of town and he delivers my cell phone. No strings attached. Check that, there was one string attached. He casually mentioned that he looked me up on Facebook and saw I was a volunteer with the Evangelical Church here. Then instead of the usual barrage of questions that follow that one, he asks me if I have a Bible he could read and if I know of any youth groups he could join to learn more about the Bible. Ummmmmm …yeah! Maci and Christian are still picking their jaws up from the ground one week later! Long story short, Maksim has now been connected with my colleagues at Campus Crusade and is officially registered for a teenager camp with the local Child Evangelism Fellowship chapter. All because of my scatterbrained moment! What a cool reminder that in spite of all the setbacks and challenges and lack of fruit we see here, God is still in charge and is redeeming His lost people to Himself—sometimes through our best planned strategies and talks—but more often than not, just through our being here and sticking it out!
Joel Toonstra | the Toonstra family are serving in Macedonia through Global Partners and are supported missionaries of Kentwood Community Church.
"The volunteers get to help us with our homework, 'cause not everyone has someone at home to help them ..."
-Ben, Woodfield Community Center Participant
Sometimes it can be hard for people to see or measure our impact, but then you realize that kids like Ben are able to articulate the mission of the community center ... without any prompting. I couldn't be more proud of him, our kids and all of the volunteers that make this place what it is. -Mandy VanderHill, Woodfield Community Center Leader
At the Woodfield Community Center, we strive to build relationships with children and families by providing Christ-centered activities to promote community. We offer summer programming for kids of all ages that includes sports, Bible stories, games, arts and crafts, and much more! We also have weekly cookouts for all Woodfield residents. It is a wonderful opportunity to connect with the heart of a child, right in your own backyard. If you want to join us in making a forever-friend, contact us today to find out more!
My son, Jacob and I were reading the Bible as we do almost every night. We read the story of the farmer who sows seed on the road, on rocky ground, among thickets and on good ground.
We talked about the difference between the road, thickets, rocky and good ground; about hell and being separated from God and all of His good gifts forever. Then I told Jacob, “Everyone will sin in their life—only one person in the world has ever lived a life without sinning—Jesus. Jesus said, ‘I am the Truth, the Way, and the Life. No one enters the Kingdom of Heaven except through me.’ Then I explained that when you accept Jesus into your heart, you are like the seed growing in good ground.”
I told my son how “Daddy had asked Jesus to live in his heart when he was not much older than Jacob is right now”. But, when I was older and in college, I thought I could do things my own way. I did lots of naughty things, and it ended up leaving me sad, lonely and hurt. I knew I could come back to God, my Father, ask for forgiveness, and be welcomed home. God will always love us, forgive us when we repent, and welcome us home.
We talked about it a little more and Jacob said he wanted to ask Jesus into his heart. He understood that Jesus was a real person, the son of God who lived on Earth, and died on the cross for our sins. I prayed and Jacob repeated after me ... acknowledging Jesus as God's Son. We said we were sorry for our sins, and asked Jesus into our hearts to be our Savior. Just a few weeks short of six years old, Jacob is now forever a child of God. Thank you, Jesus, another son of yours has been born again!
My husband was let go from his job about six months ago and at the same time the transmission in his car went out. We had zero savings and he had to get his first unemployment check before we could even pay the rent. Six months passed by and he was still without a job and without a running car. He was angry, impatient and frustrated to say the least. Despite these emotions, he took a bold step of faith and continued to tithe our full income every month.
He wanted to give up just about every week, but I told him how many times God has come through for me and to just trust His timing. Two weeks ago he got the exact position he had been wanting for the past three years at the very company he’d always wanted to work at. His mom let us use her credit card to charge the car repairs so he could have transportation to work. As of today, we owed her $980 and he was going back to the mechanic tomorrow to charge another $300 as his steering also went out. In the meantime, I missed my car payment this month because he hasn’t got his first check from work yet. Tonight I came home from work to find a note on our table from my chronically unemployed, couch-surfing brother. It said he stopped by and then my phone rang. It was him and he told me to look under our mattress and said he wanted me to “fix our cars up so we don’t have to worry about them breaking down and that it was a way for him to thank us for letting him sleep on our couch so many times.” There was $1500 in cash under the mattress. That’s the credit card/repair bill AND my missed car payment PAID IN FULL!! God used the least likely source to provide because he wanted to make sure we knew it wasn’t a coincidence. I am completely overwhelmed and bawling my eyes out.
Pressing on through suffering is the pathway to God's power. God empowers us with His Holy Spirit to press on.
God made it clear to me that He was moving me. To be honest, I was okay with being “moved” as long as I knew where (aren’t we all this way?). For months I pondered the “where”—a different place? A different job? The answer was a complete mystery. Becoming a foster-care parent was an area often suggested to me. Sure, I enjoyed working with kids, but this idea was the farthest thing from my mind. I was single—and I loved my single life. I tried to shut it out, but for some reason, the idea of foster care was always in the back of my mind, slowly simmering. One evening on my way to church I had a serious talk with God, acknowledged that He was indeed preparing to move me and I knew I was okay with it. I had let go emotionally of where I was but felt I was in a holding pattern. Where was I supposed to GO? That evening, the whole service was on orphan, adoption and foster care. It blew me away! When God speaks, He gets your attention. I walked out of church convicted, ready to take the steps towards becoming a foster care parent. I also knew, however, that God wanted me to do this full-time.
When God speaks, He gets your attention. I walked out of church last November, convicted, ready to take the steps towards becoming a foster care parent. I also knew, however, that God wanted me to do this full-time. Therefore, I made the decision to leave teaching after 21 years in the classroom. It wasn’t easy —spiritual warfare immediately ensued. I left my job and the security of a paycheck for the unknown. I had nothing for kids in the house—no beds, clothes, blankets, pillows. Friends stepped in and took care of everything. Everything from car troubles to issues with my home—no matter the problem, God provided a solution. People have provided meals, games, rides and most of all prayers for my little international family. It still isn’t easy. Kids arrive at my doorstep broken, traumatized. My life caring for these children is very different from my life a year ago. But through it all I get to help them work through difficult times, hold them while they are crying, hear their stories. Soon I start to see smiles on kids faces who I didn’t think would smile. I get to make them feel like they belong. I get to plant hope. I recently asked my kids how they would describe a good foster family using only one word. Without hesitation, all four responded at the same time: “Love.”
A family friend of 30 years was diagnosed with liver cancer. He was an alcoholic and did not quit drinking after doctor’s had told him he needed to stop. Knowing him like an uncle, I started to pray for him. I asked to have him be on a prayer chain. Knowing he was unsaved, it became more urgent to pray for his soul and especially after his doctor told him he had only three months to live. The Holy Spirit prompted my husband and I to GO, SPEAK and DO. The pastor's message that weekend was about that very subject! Not only did we feel the prompting of the Holy Spirit, we wanted to make sure we obeyed! So we went to GO see our friend, in order to SPEAK to him about Jesus, and we asked him if he wanted to DO, by saying the sinners prayer and invite Jesus to be his Lord and Savior. Our obedience to God led to a great blessing! A week later our friend made a decision for Christ and has joined Him in eternity! We will see him again!