By Carol Smith, Youth Director
Looking back to your senior year can bring up many emotions. Some look back with nostalgia, “best year of my life”, while others couldn’t wait to get done and vividly remember “senioritis.” Whatever your memory of your last year of high school is, we know that it is the mark of rite of passage into the beginning of adulthood. With each stage of life comes something that signifies the end of one thing but the beginning of something new. This year our seniors had many things taken from them that they had planned for, looked forward to, and were ready for; proms, trips, graduation ceremonies, grad parties, and just a sense of comradery with shared experiences with their classmates. And yet it looks different now. The question is, “what do we do about it since we cannot change it?”
My first response is “I don’t know.” But when I think about it deeper, a few things come to mind. We can respond to our graduating seniors with a few ways to help in these uncertain and unusual times.
Empathy: None of us have experienced exactly what our students are experiencing right now. Some have had their senior year cut short for a variety of reasons; drafting to the armed forces, not getting the grades, unexpected pregnancy, and a variety of other reasons. But none of us have experienced something like our seniors have this year. Still many of us have had things end early, things taken from us unexpectedly, and have had to grieve. Empathy allows us to give permission for grief for our students. Paul reminds us to “rejoice with others when they rejoice and weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15)
Encouragement: I was reading in Hebrews the other day and saw this verse “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works” (vs 24) and it continued to read, “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another…” (vs 25a). While we cannot meet together in a physical space right now, we can continue to encourage each other. I encourage you to find ways to encourage our seniors through a few tangible ways. (see below)
Prayer: Praying for our seniors is another way we can help our seniors. Letting them know how you are praying for them is an amazing way to encourage our seniors. Setting an alarm and praying for a graduating senior by name and letting them know you are doing that could be an amazing way to support our seniors.
In the recent past (the last 5 years) we have had a display of our graduating seniors and an opportunity to write notes of encouragement, pass along a verse that is helpful, and give advice and then present those notes to them for them to look back upon in the future. The theme this year is FOCUS. While this theme was chosen before this all happened, God has a way of working things out before we know what is about to happen. The Passion Translation of Philippians 4:8 beautifully describes how we can get through this time.
"So keep your thoughts continually fixed on all that is authentic and real, honorable and admirable, beautiful and respectful, pure and holy, merciful and kind. And fasten your thoughts on every glorious work of God,[a] praising him always."
This year we would like to invite you to participate by encouraging our seniors through the website (or you can drop off or mail in handwritten notes for our graduating seniors). On the website in May, a gallery of photos of our seniors will be available for you to look through and an opportunity to write notes to them. Even if you don’t have a relationship with a student you will have a chance to encourage them! This gallery will be displayed on the ecclife.net/youth page as soon as we have received their information*. These notes will be collected, printed and distributed to our seniors soon!
Lastly, I am offering all seniors a chance to participate in a rite of passage through Ezer + Co. This is an opportunity to honor the next step in their life while growing your relationship. This can be done with someone other than a parent. If you are close to a graduating senior, take a minute to look into this.
RITE OF PASSAGE EXPERIENCE: Teenagers, especially the Class of 2020, are losing a lot during COVID-19. This is a parent-child experience you can use now to help teenagers reclaim what they’ve lost and celebrate this important milestone.
Yes, this year looks different than we expected. Yes, there are many things to grieve. And yes, we can count our blessings in the midst of this crisis. But we serve a big God who can take what has been lost and make something bigger and better than we expected. We can continue to honor and celebrate our graduating seniors during this time and we can trust in God to multiple our efforts. If you would like a list ahead of time of our seniors, please email me and you can get started now, otherwise, watch for our gallery of seniors on the website soon!
*If you know of a senior who has not filled out the form and sent in a picture, please have them visit ecclife.net/youth to do so! We do not want to miss anyone!
By Kristin Mueller
When I was in the process of joining you all at ECC as Children’s Ministry Director, I had the opportunity to come to Lafayette and visit the week of Summer XP at Miller Elementary School. I visited for just 2 of the 5 nights, but I was amazed at the energy, the excitement, the fun, and the love for Christ and Christ’s kids that were so evident on those days! Then, this April, when the governor announced that Indiana schools would not return in person for the end of the school year, it became pretty obvious that we weren’t going to be able to gather at Miller in person for Summer XP during the first week of June.
We had a few options – cancel completely (many churches have decided to do this), try and postpone, or develop a new model of how to do Summer XP in 2020. As a small group of dedicated volunteers gathered on Zoom, I saw the same heart that I first saw when I visited Summer XP – we have a dedicated team who want the children in Lafayette to have a safe, fun, exciting place to get to know God deeper and to get to experience God’s great love for them. Out of this passion, a new way to do Summer XP began!
We won’t gather in person, but we will still be reaching out to children in Lafayette and inviting them to join us online for this year’s Summer XP. Children from ECC, from Miller Elementary School, from Bauer Community Center, from Lafayette, and even friends around the country who’ve moved away – will all gather together to “Focus” on God and His amazing plan for us! We’ll spend 3 days diving into Bible lessons that help us see God in creation, hear God’s Word to us, and talk to God about our needs in prayer. On day 4 we’ll celebrate all that we’ve learned and challenge kids to live for God by loving others in their family, their neighborhood, and their world!
Yes, there are lots of details we need to sort out, but we’re going to be using paper mailings, video technology, secure online chat rooms, and doorstep deliveries to spread the fun, excitement, and love of Christ through this year’s Summer XP! There are many ways for our ECC family to get involved, and we’d love to have our church body participate. You can help prepare materials ahead of time, be a part of our online videos, or deliver packages to the doorsteps of our participants. You can lead or assist with a small group of students as they get to know each other and grow deeper in their relationship with God.
An important part of each Summer XP has been the meal we serve to families in the Miller and Bauer neighborhood. It’s our hope that we will still be able to offer these meals, following the model that Ronda Ooms and our Outreach Ministry team have set up for Thursday meals at Bauer. Families will be able to drive-through and pick up dinners each night, Monday through Thursday. They can then take their meals home, and kids will be able to join in the Summer XP events online at 6:30 that same night.
We will need many, many hands to serve these meals each evening, and this is another way that you can be involved with the ministry of Summer XP! While you won’t be sitting down and sharing a meal in person with a Lafayette neighbor, you still have the opportunity to share a meal through a car window and greet people with the love of Christ each night.
Since we will be hosting Summer XP online, registering kids before the week starts will be extremely important. We’ll need to communicate to families and get them set up for our online programs and meetings. If you have a child who would like to participate, or if you know a child you’d like to invite, please have them register online so we know that they will be joining us. Summer XP is open to children who will be entering Kindergarten through 5th grade in the fall of 2020.
If you’d like to be a part of this exciting adventure with us at our first online Summer XP, you can find more information at https://www.ecclife.net/xp.html. You’ll find links for both volunteer registration and student registration on this page.
Please pray with us that we’ll keep listening for and following the direction of God’s Holy Spirit. Pray that God will use this new Summer XP format to bring children into relationship with him, to deepen the faith of those who follow him, and to impact our community in ways that bring people face to face with God’s great love for them!
By: Kate Cogswell
A whole other dimension was added to my faith journey while we were in Israel. I had heard this would be true, yet I was unable to even imagine how physically experiencing the places I had read about, walking where Jesus had walked, and travelling with fellow believers, would increase my love for God and His word.
As we sat at the garden tomb on that last day of our trip, I sensed Easter would never be quite the same for me. I had no idea how true that would be. Engaging with God’s word while at the sites where these events happened rooted God’s love more deeply in my heart. Physically being there deepens the connection between your head and your heart. As one of our travel companions recently shared: “It takes on a whole new level of 'real' after being there in February.”
On our trip, we visited two of the suggested locations for the crucifixion and burial site of Jesus: the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Garden Tomb. Either may or may not be the actual site.
Our tour guide and now friend, John DeLancey, taught us about each site. On one hand, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher (inside the Old City today) has more archaeology in its favor.
On the other hand, the Garden Tomb (outside the Old City today) is a quiet place more conducive for worship and reflection. Each site looks and feels completely different than the other.
Whichever of the locations might have held his tomb or if it was somewhere else, we discovered that they had one thing in common:
They were empty. Jesus is risen and isn’t in a tomb. He is alive – and that makes all the difference. We can know Him. His death and resurrection provided the Way for us to be in a transformational relationship with Him.
We worship a risen savior and not an empty tomb. We worship Jesus and not a location.
He is risen! He is risen indeed!
Admittedly our Easter celebrations looked different than any Easter we’ve ever had. All the traditional ways we celebrate – ways I, for one, have taken for granted – couldn’t be celebrated the way we always have.
And yet, even a pandemic couldn’t keep us from Easter celebration. We were still able to worship “together”, I “saw” families – mine included – find ways to adapt via Zoom and appropriately physically-distanced gatherings.
Our world is different, but God is still the same! The same celebration of the fact that Christ is risen rings true all over the globe. The importance of Christ’s resurrection isn’t minimized by the way we celebrate it. Maybe we had space this year to really sit in the significance of Easter.
We celebrate a risen savior and not “Easter”. We celebrate Jesus and not a tradition.
The beauty of Easter is that while we emphasize celebration of Christ’s resurrection on this particular Sunday – the celebration isn’t limited to only Easter but the Gospel truth is something we can and should celebrate beyond the designated Sunday.
Growing up, I thought Easter was a one-day celebration; however, I’m discovering in church history, many considered Easter to be a season of celebration, like Advent or Lent. Eastertide is a seven-week season between Easter Sunday and Pentecost. Maybe Eastertide holds space for us to more adequately ponder the implications of the resurrection?
This year offered vivid reminders that we don’t celebrate the location, the traditional celebrations, or the day – we celebrate Jesus, His death and resurrection, and the gift of abundant life now and forever.
My prayer is that God would seal the truth of his Gospel in our hearts, perhaps in a new way this year. I pray He reminds us what his victory over sin and death means for us individually, for His kingdom, for our communities, and for the world. I pray that we take our Easter celebration into every day of our lives and into our world in a way that brings peace, hope, and joy!
He is risen! He is risen indeed!
By Kate Cogswell
Sitting at Wadi Qelt, Israel, overlooking the valley between Jericho and Jerusalem, I experienced the most unexpected highlight of our Israel trip. Shlomo, our Israeli guide, sang Psalm 23 in Hebrew. A long-favorite scripture, studied, treasured, loved…and now heard in its original language! It was a striking reminder that God’s presence – and goodness as our Shepherd – transcends language and culture and time.
As I listened to Shlomo sing and looked out over the valley, the memorized words of Psalm 23 traveled through my thoughts.
“The Lord is my Shepherd, I lack nothing…”
Those familiar words began to carry fresh meaning.
There weren’t a lot of visible green pastures from my vantage point.
The way to still waters is not smooth or easy.
The beauty of God’s creation does restore the soul.
The oasis can be found, but it’s not always obvious to the eye.
The terrain is rough and rugged on the path.
The valley really is the best way to get from Jericho to Jerusalem.
The valley route actually provided protection and provision.
One could easily get lost without a guide.
Seems a lot like life.
“The Lord is my Shepherd, I lack nothing…”
I am continually learning what it means to have Jesus as my Savior and Shepherd. He calls me to spend time in His word, to know Him, to spend time in His presence so I can recognize His voice whether I’m sitting in joy or sorrow, easy or hard, confidence or uncertainty…
I have found Him to be my faithful and good shepherd, and I really lack nothing.
This doesn’t mean I’m denying the realities of life – the highs, the lows, and the ordinary days of just doing life. Nor do I always get the answers I most want – though sometimes I do.
It does mean there really is a way to live with Jesus as your shepherd that lets us live differently. I definitely experience His peace more easily when I let Him lead and guide than when I try to navigate life on my own.
In some ways, it comes down to the voice we choose to listen to. Will we listen to the voice that came to steal, kill, and destroy? OR the voice that came that we may have life, and have it to the full? (John 10:10) There are so many competing voices - but I wholeheartedly believe His is The Voice worth listening to!
Is choosing which voice we listen to the key to an “I lack nothing” life? I believe it is.
As we continue to walk with Jesus to Jerusalem during Holy Week, I invite you to pause with me to ponder the connection between Psalm 23 and Jesus as our Good Shepherd and valley seen from Wadi Qelt.
This valley, which may or may not be the valley David was thinking about as he penned Psalm 23, is the very path Jesus and his disciples walked from Jericho on his journey to Jerusalem. (Mark 10:46,52, Mark 11:1)
Jesus, who tells us twice in John 10 that He is the Good Shepherd. (John 10:11,14)
Jesus, who tells us the good shepherd lays his life down for the sheep. (John 10:11)
Jesus, who tells us He knows his sheep and his sheep know him. (John 10:14,15)
Jesus, who goes on ahead of us, and whose sheep follow him because they know his voice. (John 10:4)
God, who provides guidance, beauty, oasis, protection, provision, and so much more. (Psalm 23)
God, who is equally present in the peaks and the valleys.
The gifts of Psalm 23 are connected to God being our shepherd.
In Jesus, the Lord who is our Shepherd, we lack nothing.
We began this “walk with Jesus to Jerusalem” Lenten journey with the invitation to remember and intentionally focus on Christ’s life, ministry, sacrifice, and resurrection. We began Lent before the realities of a pandemic affected our personal lives. As we considered what we might give up for Lent, we could not have imagined what love, wisdom, and state ordered strategies to flatten the curve would ask us to give up.
While the how and what look different for each of us, we have collectively found ourselves giving up things we would have never chosen. Admittedly, there is much to grieve during this time; we may need to not rush past the grief. Yet, just as we anticipate celebrating the resurrection of our Good Shepherd, there is joy to be found in the midst and joy ahead.
Walking through the valley with Jesus to Jerusalem, though rough at times, leads us to Christ’s most intimate invitation to us to lack nothing. Leads us to Jerusalem where we see the Good Shepherd lay down His life for the sheep. Leads us to Jerusalem where Jesus showed His love, God’s love, in His willingness to die so we could have a relationship with Him, so He could be our savior and good shepherd.
God’s Gospel invitation is often presented as our way to heaven. While that is true, it’s not the full story. Jesus came so that we could have life - and have it to the full. (John 10:10). He came so we could live that abundant life now. We do need to have a heart of repentance and turn to Him. We do need to accept Him and His invitation. And for us to experience this fullness of life, we need to invite Him into all of it, not just when life is hard and we can’t deny our need for help. Not just when life is easy and we naturally feel gratitude. We are invited to learn how to engage with Him in each part of the journey, including our everyday moments so we experience both the fullness of joy and sense His presence even in days of pain and sorrow.
God invites us to turn to Him, to listen to His voice, to choose to follow Him.
"He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls." 1 Peter 2:24-25
Inviting Jesus to be your Good Shepherd doesn’t guarantee the terrain of our lives will be easy. Life will continue to contain joys and sorrows, ordinary days and all the days in between. BUT it does mean we will have His faithful presence to guide we as we navigate the peaks and valleys on our journey. It does mean when we trust in God and not our own understanding, He will direct our path. (Proverbs 3:5-6) It does mean that there really is a way to live with Jesus as our Savior and Shepherd that lets us live differently, lets us live in faith and hope and joy in the midst of whatever circumstances we find ourselves.
Jesus is calling each of us.
Jesus is calling YOU.
He longs to be your Good Shepherd.
Will you choose to follow Him today?
Will you get to know Him better so you can recognize His voice?