Missions VBS in Gorham

As I write this article, we have two more nights of VBS in Gorham. It has been an awesome week! We have more than doubled our attendance from last year. I hope to share a complete report next week. 

Our outreach in the community on Tuesday with the “Paint Night” enabled us to connect personally with about 20 adults from Gorham. 

Several from The Ridge have invested lots of time and treasure in our efforts in Gorham since we began an afterschool program two years ago. The Lord continues to bless those efforts over time. 

This week of Vacation Bible School in Gorham would not happen without your help. Your contributions and involvement make it all possible.  

Thank You!

#VBSGorhamTeam: Lisa Hottensen, Courtney Griffith, Brittany Thies, Pam White, Deb Henson, Allie Hottensen, Dennis Howell, Carla Bishop, Nell McElroy

#MealTeam: SASS Class, Mike & Linda Garlinghouse, Adult 3, Louie & Jenny Hertter

#SnackTeam: Don & Mary McDonald, Don & Avis Barrett, Linda Holt

#VolunteerTeam: Doug & Debbie Murrie, Karissa Howell, Betty Jo Raney, Myrtle Huppert, Jerene Dunn, Karen Dover 

The #VolunteerTeam list will increase as the week continues Thursday and Friday. Remember VBS Celebration Night in Gorham is Friday beginning at 6 p.m. and you are invited to attend!

VBS in Gorham

Thank you to everyone that helped with the meal for the SIU Saluki Football team.  Many hands were involved in its success. There was plenty of food, many servers, much help with set up and clean up. This was a great mission outreach opportunity.

Monday begins a week-long Vacation Bible School in Gorham 
sponsored by the people of The Ridge Church.

The lead team consists of Courtney Griffith, Brittany Thies, Pam White, Lisa Hottensen, Allie Hottensen Deb Henson Wes Henson, Dennis Howell; others will assist as the week goes by. Twelve VBS students are pre-registered. 

Tuesday night we are offering an adult paint night led by Jerene Dunn. There are seven from the Gorham area registered for the class.  The goal is 20. If you would like to join the group to connect with some of the Gorham folks see Lisa Hottensen for more information. 

Each night a meal will be provided for the workers and the community. And of course, there will VBS snacks as well.  

We talk a lot about MISSIONS. Here is a MISSION opportunity right in our own backyard. MISSIONS is not a ministry for someone else. We are all called to the MISSION field. When we get involved in MISSIONS, it becomes more than a line item on a budget. MISSIONS becomes real when we dive in and get personally involved. MISSIONS is not dainty. It is hard work and the results are always up to God.   

I encourage you to join us in Gorham this week. Stop in, help serve a meal, help in recreation, laugh a little, spend some time getting to know the children and parents of the community, let them know that Jesus loves them, and pray that children and their families will come to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior.    

Our Largest Evangelistic and Outreach Event of the Year

It’s true. Vacation Bible School is the largest evangelistic and outreach event of the year for the Ridge Church. It is also the single event which everyone can have a part.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago 80% of regular church attenders believe they have a personal responsibility to share their faith. Yet almost two-thirds (61%) have not shared how to become a Jesus follower with anyone in the last six months. Further, almost half (48%) haven’t invited an unchurched person to attend a church service or program in the last six months.

Vacation Bible School On The Ridge is everyone’s opportunity to invite our unchurched friends and family to attend the Ridge Church. It is everyone’s opportunity to have a part in sharing how to become a Jesus follower.

VBS is the easiest way to share your faith. The statistics tell us that everyone loves VBS. 95% of parents agree that their child’s participation in VBS was one of their most meaningful church experiences. Also, almost three quarters of parents (69%) will encourage their child to participate in a VBS event at a church they do not attend if invited by one of their friends.

Everyone can step up and take part in this evangelistic outreach ministry that the Lord has given us to reach our communities with the good news of Jesus.

Here’s how everyone can step up this week:

1) Be a part of the prayer walk Sunday night at 6 p.m. We will walk through each area of VBS and pray for the work of the Holy Spirit in each facet of VBS.

2) Attend the VBS celebration night on Thursday at 6 p.m. Make a connection with the families of the children.

3) Pray each day for our VBS to be a life changing experience for the children, their parents, and leaders

4) Pray for the VBS workers. It’s no secret that Vacation Bible School requires a hard-working, dedicated team of staff and volunteers to make it happen every year. Build them up in prayer daily.

Why We Aren’t On Hiatus This Summer

Sunday at 9 a.m. we begin a brand-new topic of study in our adult small groups: “Living by Faith: Women Who Trusted God.” As I have been known to say, and I say it again, “This Sunday is the best time to attend a small group.” The reason for saying this, is that we will all be at the same starting point.

Sunday School is designed as an entry point into group Bible study. There are no prerequisites, no expectations of biblical knowledge, and no one is turned away.

When I was growing up the arrival of summer meant everything and everyone went on hiatus. That included most activities of the church including Sunday School. Since summer was brief, summer fun appeared to have priority over every other activity.

At The Ridge while we expect people to be involved in summer activities, which may keep them from attending, we do not put Sunday School/small groups on hiatus. We do not plan for the “summer slump.” Instead, we plan for those who are here.

Let me explain why we do Sunday School and why I am excited about our weekly Sunday morning Bible studies.

• We do Sunday School because of the reality of Jesus’ imminent return. No one knows when Jesus will return and when time on earth will end. All I am confident of, is that we are closer to Jesus’ return today than yesterday.

• We do Sunday School because we want to be diligent in presenting the gospel creatively and often. Through Sunday school small groups, we share the message of salvation.

• We do Sunday School because God loves people. God desires that none should perish in their sin, and God has given us the message of redemption.

Therefore, we organize, teach, and share the gospel through Sunday School as a sign of our obedience to God’s command to make disciples and teach them to follow Jesus. (Matthew 28:19-20)

I will look for you 9 a.m. Sunday in Sunday School. Arrive a little early for breakfast.

With the Arrival of Summer

Summer has quickly arrived. Graduations celebrated, school days completed, and vacations begun. This summer has the potential to be the best summer season ever!

One of the great benefits of living in such a prosperous day and time is that there are so many choices and opportunities before us. However, if we are not intentional with our priorities and planning the moments of summer will quickly pass, leaving us frustrated, asking, “Where did the summer go?”

A solution to that dilemma is placing those important events on your summer calendar. For your convenience the list of summer events on The Ridge are detailed in this newsletter. They are also available online at www.OnTheRIdge.org/Calendar. I encourage you to mark these events on your calendar as soon as possible to keep conflicting events to a minimum.

While you may not be able to attend all the planned events of The Ridge Church this summer, know that each of these events have been carefully planned with a purpose. No doubt, vacations, reunions, and getaways will keep you away from The Ridge at times this summer. Nevertheless, the ministries and financial needs of The Ridge Church do not go on hiatus. The financial responsibility of every member continues through each season of the year.

In addition, as we celebrate summer there is also a need for weekly worship together. Whether you are in town or out of town find a place of public worship each Sunday. I am confident you will find that those moments in worship will enhance the enjoyment of your activities. While not always the case, most family plans can be put on hold for an hour as you worship. In fact, one might consider worship part of the day’s priority.

My prayer for everyone is that this summer will prove to be the best summer ever as you renew and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation.

The Privilege of Vacation Bible School

In just a few short weeks, Vacation Bible School begins on The Ridge. (June 10-14, 9-noon). Are you excited about it? Is VBS a passion for you? How do you plan to be involved?
Do you view VBS as a privilege?

What a privilege to be a part of God’s plan to reach our communities with the gospel through VBS. Whether or not we have VBS aged children, it is God’s purpose and our privilege to labor together with God in this annual event.

There are many ways everyone can enjoy the privilege of involvement in this year’s VBS.

  • Volunteer to be a VBS worker during VBS
  • Begin right now to invite VBS aged children to VBS.
  • Volunteer to provide transportation for those needing a ride to VBS.
  • Join us Sunday, June 9, at 6 p.m. as the deacons lead us on a prayer walk through the rooms and areas where VBS will take place.
  • Attend the VBS Celebration night on Thursday, June 13, at 6 p.m.
  • Pray before, during and after VBS for the children, their parents, and VBS workers.
  • Provide financial resources to purchase snacks and refreshments for the week
  • Volunteer to follow up after VBS with families that are reached through VBS. Contact Lisa Hottensen for more information.
  • Be an encourager! Be available!

VBS is the largest outreach event of The Ridge Church. It is the greatest single tool God has given The Ridge Church to reach out and share God’s love and the gospel with others.

Everybody loves VBS. 60% of American adults have attended VBS and 90% of them had a positive experience. In addition, 80% of them claim that it was a highlight of their childhood.

There’s more! 95% of parents whose children have attended VBS agree that VBS was one of their child’s most meaningful church experiences. However, like any other tool, it is only effective when used.

Will you join me as an active participant in this year’s VBS? Will you pray with me this Sunday morning at 10:15 a.m. for our VBS and all the others that will happen all over the country?

Stats provided by “It’s Worth It” Landry Holmes, Lifeway Christian Resources, 2018

Personal Reflections on Mother’s Day 2019

As I reflect on Mother’s Day 2019 several random thoughts come to mind.

I think of how much I miss my mom. The older I get the more I miss her. In addition to being a full time mom at home, she also had a full time job outside the home. That she was able to balance and excel at the two is something that would have been beyond my ability.

I connect with my mom most when I am cooking. She was a great cook. Her dishes were never fancy but always tasty and comforting. As I cook, I find myself channeling her thoughts, questions, and comments through the preparation process. Believe me, her comments were one of a kind. For Easter, I attempted to recreate her potato salad. According to my brother Dave, it was close but not quite. The debate was whether mustard was included. He said, yes. My other brother Tim, said, no. There was also a discussion about the proper amount of celery seed. So, I started to call her to find out …

Debbie and I are so blessed with five grandchildren. Two of them born within the
last two months. Brittany with four children is a wizard at managing chaos. She is able to focus on each child individually while simultaneously directing the whole household (including Brad) in their duties and responsibilities. How does she do that?
(Moms are like that, yes they are!)

Courtney is a brand new mom. She and Bradley have had some experience at parenthood with the raising of Luna. However, the arrival of Landry Gray presents a new set of challenges. Courtney methodically and tenderly assesses Landry’s moment-by-moment needs. Her quiet patience is quite calming.

My daughters are great moms! I whole-heartedly confess that their gifts and abilities of momhood did not genetically transfer from my DNA. I am confident they are mirroring the examples their mom has lived out. As I observe the gestures, actions, and reactions of both Brittany and Courtney, I realize they have Debbie’s mothering DNA. Debbie continues to provide a Godly example of mothering skills and abilities
to her children and grandchildren. What a great legacy she is developing for generations to come.

OutReach is ReachingOut

Tuesday we completed our spring after school ministry in Gorham.
Let me tell you about it.

First, let’s back up a little bit. In November, we returned to Gorham and held 6 sessions on Tuesdays, 4:30 – 5:30 p.m. from November 13 through December 18. We paused for a few weeks for the holidays and winter. We returned in February and held 11 sessions through the end of April.

In the fall session, we averaged 22 each week, including 15 students and 7 assistants. Our spring session averaged 18, including 12 students and 6 assistants.

While we initially prepared for children in grades 1–6, we had children from preschool through 9th grade attend. As you might imagine this scenario resulted in many challenges. However, our team met and exceeded each challenge and our love for the children and their families has grown.

Our Gorham team this year included, Avis Barrett, Wes Henson, Lisa Hottensen, Allie Hottensen, Dennis Howell, Angie James, and Matt Phillips.

Join me in thanking them for their weekly commitment to sharing God’s love and Gospel in Gorham. Also, I would like to thank everyone who provided snacks each week. They were an essential part of our weekly plan.

Our next scheduled Gorham event is for Vacation Bible School July 8- 12, 6-8 p.m. with dinner served at 5:30.

We are in need of happy volunteers to assist in this ministry for VBS and in reaching this community. As you pray for happy volunteers, will you be an answer to your prayer and volunteer? Let me know how the Lord is leading you to ReachOut.

The Resurrection Changes Everything

What a gorgeous weekend we had to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. There were several activities at The Ridge Church leading up to our Easter celebration. I hope you were available to take part and ponder the meaning of each activity.

The Maundy Thursday service reminded us, once again of the great price that God paid in our behalf. As we recounted the agony, pain, and shameful torture that Jesus endured, we were more than humbled. The sound of the bread breaking was an apt reminder of the brokenness of Jesus’ body. The juice splashing in the cup visualized his blood spilling out for our redemption.

Saturday was a windy cold biting day on The Ridge. However, the weather did not keep the children from enjoying their Easter Egg Hunt. Over a hundred children attended the Easter Egg Hunts in Gorham and on The Ridge. We connected with many unchurched families.

Sunday morning Sunrise celebration filled with songs of praise and a message of hope reinforced our belief that the resurrection of Jesus changes everything. Because He lives, we can face tomorrow, because He lives, all fear is gone, because He lives, we too shall live, and because He lives, life today is worth living to its fullest!

After a hearty breakfast prepared by Mike and Linda Garlinghouse and our small group Bible Study, The Ridge Choir led us in worship as they presented the cantata, “Lamb of God.” Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He is the Passover lamb who was able to accomplish through his death and resurrection what no other Passover lamb was ever able to do, fully provide forgiveness of sin.
Thank you, Jesus!

Let me invite you to join me on Thursday, May 2, for the National Day of Prayer celebration, at Smysor Plaza, Murphysboro from 10:30 – 11 a.m., followed by lunch at noon at The McCann Davis Center. These events are free and open to the public.

How to Have Hope in Life


Easter: The Holiday of Hope

“In a pitch-black room, a room swallowed up in darkness, even a small pin point of light glows brightly. And when light enters, darkness exits.” So begins Pastor Gregg Laurie’s message to those trapped in the lonely darkness of their own hopelessness.

Trapped in the darkness of lonely hopelessness is an apt description of the two individuals who are making their way home from Jerusalem after the Passover. In Luke’s gospel (Ch. 24), they are described as having “sadness written across their faces.” Hopelessness and sadness go together. They were sad that Jesus had died.

In addition, they were disillusioned. Jesus had let them down. Everything they heard about him and saw him do confirmed to them that he was the promised Messiah that would restore Israel to its former glory. “We had hoped he was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel. This all happened three days ago.” (V. 21). It had been three days and they spoke of Jesus in the past tense.

On their way home, they encounter the risen Jesus, whose identity is hidden from them. They openly vent their sadness, discouragement, hopelessness, and disillusionment. As the conversation progresses there is also a restlessness. Perhaps it can be best described as an uneasiness, for in spite of their reality that Jesus had been crucified and is dead, there were reports of angels announcing that he is alive. It was all so confusing and mysterious.

Upon reaching their destination, they invite the traveler to stay the night and join them in a meal. As the bread is shared, they recognize the resurrected Jesus.

The resurrected Jesus changes everything. Sadness becomes excitement. Their uneasiness becomes assurance. Hopelessness gives way to promise. The promise of a new beginning, a new life, and a new outlook.

Truly Easter is the holiday of hope. The resurrected Jesus changes everything!