Update on Illinois Disaster Relief Efforts

Karissa Howell

Since September 16th, Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief has sent over 90 volunteers to help people in North Carolina. Sent out were eight Chainsaw/Mudout teams, four Shower/Laundry teams, two Feeding teams, one Assessor/Chaplain team, and one Incident Command team to Wallace, Lumberton, and Franklin, North Carolina.

These teams prepare meals for Red Cross workers to pass out to flood victims and maintain shower units so volunteers can have warm showers and clean laundry after long days in the field. In addition, the assessors and chaplains check the houses to make sure the volunteers are able to complete the requests. They also talk with the homeowners to assess any spiritual needs.

The National Disaster Relief director reported 3,000 work orders, with about 2,000 left to complete. They anticipate the work in NC continuing into December.

One of the biggest tasks undertaken is “Recovery” or Chainsaw/Mudout. These workers spend a day or more with the homeowners cutting down and removing trees or clearing out the flooded homes. They often have the most time to make ministry contacts and hand out tracts. At the end of the assignment, each homeowner is presented with a new Bible signed by all the workers.

With Hurricane Michael making landfall in the Florida panhandle, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief workers are on stand-by and ready to respond to the states affected. This is in addition to already being on call for Hurricane Florence. Please pray for the people affected by these storms.

If you are interested in being a part of Illinois Disaster Relief, there is a training on October 19-20 at Lake Sallateeska. Volunteers are needed to respond to local as well as national disasters. See Dennis or Karissa Howell for more information. To donate visit www.OnTheRidge.org/Give; “Give to:” Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief.

We Labor Together with God, Wes

Teach Us to Pray

How often do you pray? Do you pray with your eyes closed? Do you pray before meals? What about when you order a meal from a restaurant, or when dining alone? Do you pray before consuming a snack? Do you pray when you get up in the morning? When you go to bed at night? Do you pray when you hear the siren of an emergency vehicle? Then, there are the questions of how and what do you pray?

My questions about prayer have no end. Which reminds me, Paul instructs that it is God’s will for us to, “rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). There is a connection between joy, praying, and being thankful.

Pastor Alan Rhein, First United Methodist, Carbondale recently wrote about prayer. Allow me to share a few of his insights. There is no “magic” or “extra special power” when a pastor prays for a person. God hears and answers prayers with the same urgency when any of us pray. Prayer is not a “trick” we work out with God to get what we want. Instead, prayer should be a conversation with God, which provides inner strength to deal with the trial at hand. Prayer is the foundation of our relationship with God. It is a relationship builder. The most important aspect we often forget about God is that God is listening! Just to know that God hears me and cares about me is often enough to get me through the immediate challenge.

I am inviting you to join me in a 7-week Bible study on “How to Pray” beginning 9 a.m. Sunday, October 14. All nine adult and two youth small groups will study this topic.

Our Small group leaders are passionate about teaching and facilitating the discussion each week. They are prepared and arrive by 8:45 a.m. each Sunday. You may choose almost any adult group to attend. The list of classes is available at the Hospitality Center or just call the office. If you are unsure about which class is for you, attend several.

Prayer tip:  If you are praying and driving, please keep your eyes OPEN!

We Labor Together with God, Wes

Time Marches On

As of today anyway, it appears as if the autumnal equinox and the weather forecast are in-sync. Yes, it is autumn and yes, we have experienced some autumn type temperatures. The low for Friday will dip to about 51. Just about right for me. Whether the weather cooperates or not seasonal changes are in the future.

God has provided markers to help us remember the changes that take place in our lives. Things don’t stay the same. I am reminded of Ecclesiastes 3:1-15 which begins, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven; a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted…”

We often take for granted the wonder and the workings of our world. We don’t even think about how intricate and fragile this world is and yet how enduring and magnificent it is as well.

We focus so much energy on the present that we ignore the world around us, the passage of time, and the changing of the seasons. We appear insulated from the changes that surround us. We watch our favorite programs on our own schedule. We don’t have to fret about above or below average temperatures. Just move the dial a few degrees up or down. So much technology at our fingertips persuades
us that we are in control and are indeed masters of our own fate.

The reality of Ecclesiastes reminds us that this is God’s world, God created it all, God is in control, and we are his creation.

Yes, like the seasons, life is changing for us all, and we are not in control.
Nevertheless, rest easy, we belong to God and everything is under God’s control.

“Acknowledge that the Lord is God! He made us, and we are his. We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.” Psalm 100:3

We Labor Together with God, Wes

Sleepless in Carterville

For some reason, I have been having difficulty sleeping this past week. I would fall asleep fast but wake up in a few hours and then lay wide-awake for several hours. Sometimes I would get up and read or work on a project. In fact, I worked on this Sunday’s sermon and almost finished it one night this week. Remember that Sunday morning when I bring the morning message.

Someone posted on Facebook the reason for all this sleeplessness. Evidently, I wasn’t the only nocturnal individual roaming around aimlessly. The culprit was “solar storms” erupting in the atmosphere causing lack of sleep, nightmares, fatigue, restlessness and a litany of other maelstroms.

I was ready to accept this explanation. In fact, I was even tempted to get my telescope out and see if I could track one down.

However, rather than trust my fate to the sun and the stars, I examined the scriptures for some comfort and insight. What else is there to do at 2 a.m.?

Proverbs 3:24 When you lie down, you will not be afraid, when you lie down your sleep will be sweet.

Psalm 127: 2 … for he gives sleep to his beloved

Psalm 4:8 I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord make me dwell in safety.

Philippians 4:6-7 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Of course, there is also this, How long will you lie there, you sluggard? Proverbs 6:9

We Labor Together with God, Wes

Where is your place in ministry?

One of the basic understandings of the word church is that the church is not the buildings and the grounds. It is not an object. The church is the people! We, the redeemed, are the church. Another basic understanding of the church is that the church does not exist for us to be served. The church exists for us to serve others.

At times folks wonder whether they fit in when it comes to the church. Some feel left out. Others wonder how they can serve through the church. And, still, others feel that the church exists for their benefit. These are all legitimate questions and issues. Perhaps all of us have pondered them at some point in our life.

This topic got me to thinking, which can be dangerous for all of us at times. However, I pray that this time it will be beneficial and edifying for all of us. For those who feel disconnected, wondering where they fit in, what could they do, and whether there is a place for them at The Ridge Church, let me suggest a few areas of on-going ministry where you can easily find a connection.

  • Sunday School/Small groups ministry
  • Vacation Bible School ministry
  • Children’s ministry Music ministry
  • Parking lot ministry
  • Audio/Visual ministry
  • Welcome ministry
  • Security ministry
  • Bus/Van ministry
  • Youth ministry
  • Missions ministry
  • Gorham ministry
  • Social Media ministry
  • Outreach ministry

You can be a part of these ministries. Call the church office and get connected. There is a place for everyone at The Ridge Church. Step up and get involved!

We Labor Together with God, Wes

Opportunities to Give: Mission Illinois Offering and 5th Sunday Debt retirement

As a follower of Jesus, blessed beyond measure, it is a joyful privilege to give for the cause of the gospel! This month we have two extra opportunities to give financially above and beyond our regular giving.

The 5th Sunday Offering for Debt Retirement is September 29 and September is the month we support Missions in Illinois through the Mission Illinois offering.

The Mission Illinois Offering is an opportunity for us to focus on state missions. I truly believe that the focused mission field for The Ridge Church lies outside the four walls of our building and in our local communities.

While the command Jesus gave to “Tell as you go” (Matthew 28:19-20) begins locally, it does not end at the borders of our communities. There is an overwhelming need for the heralding of the gospel message throughout our state as well.

The need is great all across Illinois, but especially in the cities and Northwest Illinois. Nate Adams, executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association reports, “In many parts of Illinois, Baptists offer by Muslims, Mormons, eastern religions, and people with no faith at all, In fact, at least 8-million of our 13- million neighbors in Illinois do not know Jesus Christ.”

Our giving through the Mission Illinois Offering, provides supplies for VBS training and children’s camps, sends expertise to churches in need of stronger leadership, recruits and equips church planters to start congregations where they are desperately needed. And the list goes on and on.

All gifts given through the Mission Illinois Offering stay here in Illinois: teaching students, equipping leaders, planting churches, and always, advancing the gospel.

Won’t you give through the Mission Illinois Offering? Your partnership in advancing the gospel in Illinois is needed now, more than ever.

We Labor Together with God, Wes

Step Up Sunday, Sunday Nights, & the Annex

Step Up Sunday was a great day in the life of The Ridge Church. What a privilege to worship our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ outside in God’s Creation. Much planning and preparation makes this annual celebration a success. I specifically want to thank the food preparers for this year’s meal. While the fried chicken was purchased at Kroger (the best chicken we’ve had), the potato salad and baked beans were “homemade” and OHHHH so good!

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With the new church year, there are a few changes. One change is the dismissal of evening services. The deacons and church council will revisit this decision before the beginning of the next church year. It is our hope that rather than filling this time with other activities, that it will be used for refreshing and renewal and preparation for the week ahead. All of us are already busy enough.

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The annex building has been sided and painted. A ramp is being installed and the flooring has been ordered. A few Sunday School classes are already meeting in the building. Within a few weeks, we hope to have several more classes moved to the annex from the multi-purpose building

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If you are interested in any of the pictures on the bulletin board, please take them. First come first served.

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As we move into the fall, I encourage you to get involved in a Sunday morning small group. These small groups provide a great opportunity to get to know people and grow in your faith. A whole lot of learning and sharing is happening!

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Finally, I encourage you to invite new persons to small groups and worship. So many do not attend church anywhere. We have so much to offer that will assist folks in their daily life. Why would we hesitate?

We Labor Together with God, Wes

Use your gifts to engage God’s plan for your life

It seems like it was only yesterday when you could hear the last school bell ring letting you know that summer had officially begun. You trade in your backpacks full of books for suitcases full of swimsuits and sunglasses. The sun’s been out and the weather has been hot.

Vacation Bible School and summer vacations have come and gone. We have reached the time of year where it starts getting darker earlier, soon the leaves will start changing colors and the heat will turn into cool, crisp air. And all this can only mean one thing: school is back in session.

Most everyone is already back in classes; the routine of fall is already feeling somewhat familiar.

September 1st begins the new Church year. Some folks will be taking on new responsibilities this year. Others will continue serving in their current capacities.

We are all remarkably and wonderfully made, unique, and here for a purpose, for such a time as this! As I shared Sunday morning, God has gifted each of us with talents, abilities, and passions to utilize in God’s service through The Ridge Church.

What is the thing that God has asked you to do, the ministry that God is asking you to engage in, what is it that pumps your blood?

In what area of service has God gifted you? Maybe you don’t have the gift but God has given you a passion and you are willing to learn how to do it, or give financially so that the goal can be achieved.

I confidently believe that God has gifted The Ridge Church with what is needed to fulfill God’s mission and yet we have very present needs in Preschool 1 & 2.

How are you using your gifts to engage God’s plan in service through The Ridge Church? Is there a place God is leading you to serve?

We Labor Together with God, Wes

Under Construction

It always seems to happen this way. As soon as the students begin to arrive at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale and the kiddies get ready to begin the new school year, road construction ratchets up a notch.

This year is no different. All along the Carbondale strip, a major north/south route, construction has gone on all summer. It has now encroached on the other major artery through the city. Heading east on route 13 the barriers are up, the equipment has moved in, and lane closures lead out of Carbondale.

This is the Carbondale way.

If you happen to pass by the Trico School in Campbell Hill, you will notice big earth moving equipment, construction signs and barricades. One would think that any major building project would be complete before students return to the classroom. You would be right. The school is ready for the new school year. The construction equipment that litters the entrance serves as a reminder of a crucial life message.

According to Trico Community Unit School District #176 Superintendent Larry Lovell, “Don’t worry, the buildings are ready for school. We are just preparing for our awesome kids to return for their first day of “work.” Our Instructional Theme this year is “The Road to Success is Always Under Construction.”

What is true in educational life is truer in spiritual life. The road to a successful spiritual life is always under construction.

That is why belonging to a small group (Sunday School), worshiping together, daily Bible study, and consistent praying are so important if we are to grow spiritually.

As we begin this new season of the year, please take the time to evaluate your spiritual growth and make the necessary adjustments to maneuver your way through the detours, lane closures, and construction zones we call life!

We Labor Together with God, Wes

Happy New Year!

When does the New Year begin? Well, it depends. The calendar year runs from January 1 through December 31. The Ridge Church year begins September 1 and concludes August 31. Finally, the Southern Baptist Convention year begins July 1 and ends on June 30. I know it is a lot to keep up with, but someone has to do it.

The Nominating Committee has been busy enlisting folks for the upcoming church year that begins September 1. I hope that when you are asked to serve you will prayerfully consider your response and focus on reasons to serve rather than reasons not to serve. As members of The Ridge Church, we have a responsibility to find areas to serve cheerfully with the gifts that God has equipped us.

Several pressing areas of need include our preschool department. The leadership is in place and assistants are needed. If you have questions or can help one or two Sundays a month please contact the church office.

Now when it comes to the SBC New Year, I want to share some exciting information from the past year.

July 1, 2017 – June 30, 2018

Total Baptisms:  13

New Members

Baptism:  11

Statement Of Faith And Baptism:  6

Letter From SBC Church:  1

Total New Members:  18

Total Receipts:  $ 260,167.00

We Labor Together with God, Wes