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Bringing Jesus to Shepherds in Mali

cap2Much of Mali, as you can see from this picture, is very rural and barren land with small villages full of farmers and shepherds. Not unlike during the time of Jesus, shepherds are considered the lowest of the low, spending most of their time out in the fields with cattle, goats, and sheep. Rarely would anyone visit them, care for them, or bring them good news. Yet this is exactly what a team from CCC did just weeks ago near the village of Fama.

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Fama, a small village of a few thousand Malians, is located about 90 minutes southwest of the CCC hospital. The good work of the hospital over these many years has softened the hearts of the people to these outsiders called “Christians” and so this was a key village for our team to visit. This team of 6 from CCC – Adam Cassidy, Von Walter, Dr. Jerry Busselman, Paul Lanphier, Aaron Goldsmith, and me (Pastor Craig Walter) – partnered with some of our missionaries in Mali and Malian Pastors to de-worm about 3,000 of their cattle over 2 days. For these families and farmers this is an amazing act of love because this de-worming will cause their cattle to often double their weight, making them much more valuable when they are ready to sell. Yet even more amazing is not just the opportunity to see the love of Jesus in action, but for some a chance to hear the good news about Jesus Christ. This is where the shepherds come in.

After working hard in the middle of a cattle pen all morning….

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… we were able to gather these shepherds under a tree and tell them the story of Jesus. Missionary Jake Tillett (in the center of the picture below) is sharing the gospel in their native tongue of Bambara. These men, young and old, have probably never heard of Jesus before. These shepherds, used to being ignored and mistreated, for a few minutes were given special attention and prominence by the God who loves them so much he died on a cross for them.

This is what it looks like to take the gospel to far ends of the Earth. If there is a place called the middle of nowhere, a small field near the village of Fama in Mali is about as close as you can get to being there. What a joy it was for our team to bring the good news to this village and to advance the work of our missionaries and Malian Pastors in Fama and other villages in Mali.

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Pennies can make a difference

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If you were in church on January 15th, you might remember hearing Pastor Mark mention how the children of CCC raised $2,787.33 to purchase 115 Chinese Study Bibles for pastors in China! Many of these pastors in China lead dozens of small house churches and are desperate for Bibles like these that can help them learn how to teach the Bible to their congregations.

It all started when an anonymous donor gave $250 and we challenged the children to match that amount in one month. The 4th and 5th graders really got behind the challenge and they easily went well above $250. Not to be left out, our Wednesday Boys Club challenged the Girls Club and in just one night, combined, they brought in over $110!

To make it even more fun we set up two mini shopvacs (nicknamed “Offervacs”) as their offering “basket”. The kids brought their money in, turned on the Offervac and watched as it sucked up their money.

This was a great opportunity for the leaders to teach the kids how important it was for them to bring in their own money and not to ask their parents for money. So we brainstormed ways they could raise the money (doing extra chores, helping neighbors, etc.), or what they could give up (a cup of hot chocolate on a Sunday morning) in order to bring in money to purchase the Bibles!

It was so amazing watching kids come in with bags full of pennies, nickels, and dimes. Week after week they kept it up, bringing in what they had earned this week, to help buy these Bibles. They never gave up. In the last two weeks in December, they donated $45 each week!

It’s so fun to watch kids helping kids, and we already have a new project ready for 2017, where our kids will help kids in Peru afford to go to Bible camp. We can’t wait to see how many they will be able to send.

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Perspectives at CCC

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Before I became the Missions Pastor at CCC, I was guy who sat in the seats on Sunday morning just like everyone else. But my wife and I both loved missions work and took every opportunity we could to get involved. We went on short-term mission trips, we gave money to various projects, and we helped out wherever we could. But over the years I came to realize I didn’t really know a lot about the strategy behind missions. I didn’t really understand why missionaries would do the things they do. I didn’t really get why God would use ordinary people like me to advance his cause in the world. Maybe, like me, you struggle with some of these same questions. This is where the Perspectives class comes in.

Perspectives is an amazing, 15-week class designed for the average, hard-working, regular person who wants answers to basic questions about missions. You simply won’t find a better opportunity to learn about the history of missions, the strategy of missions, the culture of missions, and the future of missions. This class will give you insight into why God would use a regular person like you to change the world.

Perspectives is being offered in 2017 to anyone in the city of Omaha, but CCC is blessed to be the class host. Starting on Monday, January 16th, in the CCC student center, I am inviting you to participate. Just go to the Perspectives website and click Register to get started.

If you are not sure yet if you really want to take the class, the cool thing is that you can come the first couple of weeks for free. Just show up at the student center and sit through the class to see if it’s for you. Hope to see you there!

 

Better Together Christmas Store 2016

As a dad with adult children (25, 21, and 16), I was reflecting recently how different this Christmas season feels to my wife and me. We have such fun memories of our kids when they were younger, and the excitement of buying them special Christmas presents and the excitement they had as they opened them. Yet the reality is, for many families who live in poverty, Christmas ends up being the exact opposite. Moms and dads and grandparents feel the stress of wondering if they can even afford to buy their kids anything. In fact, our friends from Bridge Church recently shared with me that many families will actually not make their house payment in December so they can buy gifts for their kids.

The Better Together Christmas store was put together for these families!

img_0469Last weekend, over 100 families from Village One, Franklin School and Bridge Church came with whatever money they had to shop for their kids in a dignified way at the store. With the over 1,200 gifts and toys that CCC donated discounted up to 70%, parents and grandparents were able to choose the right gifts for their children at an affordable cost.

I recall one couple that were so thankful to shop around and find the exact Easy-Bake Oven that their daughter had been wanting all year long. Others were in tears when we gifted them a few dollars as they didn’t have quite enough money.

img_0497Another lady came prepared to pay for her sister’s shopping, but we were able to bless her sister’s family by telling her she didn’t owe a penny. Her debt had been paid, just like Jesus has paid own debt in dying for us. What a special message to convey at Christmas!

A grandmother showed up with $120 to buy gifts for all six of her grandchildren that were living with her. Not only did she go home with amazing gifts like a bicycle and dolls for her grandchildren, she didn’t have to spend all her money to do it.

The toys were just a small part of the reason for putting on the Christmas store. The home run for us is to help Bridge Church develop relationships with people in the Village One community and for the love of Jesus to shine bright. Thank you, Christ Community, for coming alongside what God is doing in Village One and helping to meet a felt need in the community. Let’s keep praying for Bridge Church and for all the people we touched this Christmas in Village One!

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CCC team opens doors for the gospel in Mali

5“Yes” – said the village Chief of Tiere, when asked by the missionary if a small group from CCC could come visit their village and provide medicine for their animals. Tiere is a small village of a few thousand people just a couple hours drive from our hospital in the city of Koutiala. The Chief’s answer was significant because for several years he has been saying no to our missionaries coming to visit his village and share about Jesus. But the prospect of having a team come and provide inoculations for their cattle, goats, sheep, and other small animals, was too good to be true.

Dr. Jerry Busselman, a Veterinarian that was part of the CCC team, said this about his experience in that village. “It was the perfect example of why we go. A village previously closed to Christians now welcomed us with open arms through something as simple as de-worming their animals.” In fact, the village Chief asked Jerry why they would come all this way and Jerry told him it was to show the love of Jesus. To that he responded, “Then we accept your love from Jesus.”

15In all, the CCC team (Melissa Head, Jerry Busselman, Pat Lighthart, Doug Gillespie, Brad Dunbar, and Kim Wilkinson) inoculated thousands of animals from seven villages named Tarasso 1, Tarasso 2, Tiere, Chiola, Togo, Sekoro, and Banankoroniwere. This act of kindness and love gives Christians a good name in these villages where the love of Jesus has never been felt. Pray for these villages as missionaries and Malian Pastors follow-up and continue to build relationships with village leaders and share the gospel. 13

 

 

how Basketball changed my heart

For the past five years, in partnership with Bridge Church, CCC has been helping support and build a youth basketball league in North Omaha. I (Eric Carpenter) have been blessed to be a part of this since the beginning.

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Each time we end practice, we have a Better Together Student Award that recognizes the player that exudes character, integrity, and teamwork. We also end each practice with this prayer, “Today is a day of victory on the court, in the classroom, and in the community. I commit to being a life-lifting, better together, game-changing leader. In Jesus name, that’s what’s up!”

Its 6 AM when I wake up to a frantic knock on my front door.  As I open the door a cold draft comes rushing in and to my surprise the youngest daughter of my neighbor is standing at the door looking to come in.  “Is everything ok?” I ask, and without hesitation she says, “I’m hungry coach.”  Not having much to offer, I grab a granola bar and pour her a glass of juice.  I can see in her face that she’s been up for hours as I ask her if she knows what time it is.  She shrugs her shoulders and quickly asks what time our basketball game is that morning.  In my head I’m thinking, “It’s not for another 3 hours and I need to go back to sleep!”  Instead I ask, “Is your mom coming to the game or do you need a ride?”  With disappointment on her face she lets me know her mom is already at work.  Her mom has not been able to come to a game all year.  After reassuring her that I would be there to pick her up on time, I lie in bed and think about how all 10 girls on my basketball team experience the same disappointment.  In fact, only one mom has shown up to watch her daughter play the entire season.  I think this is when it hit me how much I value the time I spend with these kids and how important it is for me to be a role model in their lives.  It crushes me to imagine my own child with the same look of disappointment.

As parents, we all have moments when we let our children down.  Sometimes because of unforeseen circumstances or work or just the busyness of life. The families we work with at Bridge Church have many barriers to overcome, and many of the children we coach come from single parent homes.  I just got back from a week-long mission trip and when I returned my wife commented on how hard it would be to be a single parent.  If we examine our lives, busyness if often the thing that distracts us from what ‘s most important.  It seems we are always in a hurry.  Our culture thrives on busyness and we are often guilty of not slowing down to see what God is doing right in front of us.  Most of the activities we are involved in are good and seem important,  but I’m realizing nothing is better than getting involved with activities that will change the life and direction of a young child.

One of the greatest ministries I have been involved in these past 5 years is the basketball program at Bridge Church.  This past year it has grew to over 250 students!  When we first started we needed 3 cars to pick up our entire team and had one set of parents in the stands.  Now when I drive to games, I no longer need to pick kids up and we see every parent in the stands cheering for their child!  What a difference Bridge Church is making in the lives of students and families.  Throughout the season each student receives a jersey, shorts, socks, shoes, a snack at each game, and an award for their hard work.  It’s pretty cool to no longer see disappointment on their faces, but rather excitement and joy over simple things.  As the basketball program continues to grow, we will certainly need more coaches to lead and help coach teams.  It doesn’t matter what age you are or how much experience you have, we need you!  Investing in the lives of kids doesn’t just impact them, but it also impacts your life as well.

 

Dominican Republic short-term team

Eric Carpenter, a member of the CCC missions staff, recently led a team from CCC to the Dominican Republic to support and grow the work of the local Dominican church. These are a few thoughts from Eric about the trip.

Pic 1One thing I enjoyed most about this trip is the impact we saw in the lives of others.  We had the opportunity to embark on an adventure with God and connect with a diverse team of people.  We were forced out of our comfort zones and experienced God in new ways.  Our group bonded together quickly and worked well together.  Many people felt a direct call on their life – that God wanted to use their gifts and talents for a specific purpose in the near future.  We were led by a great staff team and partnered with a growing church.

Rebuilding the Church

pic 2One of the main responsibilities on our trip was to reconstruct a church.  It is amazing to think that this task can be done with ordinary people like us!  We had a dozen experienced construction workers and a dozen laborers.  Throughout the week we tore down a few walls and the stage, extended the walls of the church by 30 feet, constructed a new front entrance, and rebuilt the roof.  We also connected and bonded with locals which is a challenge to do in such a short amount of time.

 

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Our team was challenged throughout the week with a memory verse, Colossians 4:2 – “Devote yourself to prayer, being watchful and thankful.”  Each day after morning construction we went out into the community and spoke to the neighborhood.  Many of the locals invited us inside their homes and displayed great hospitality toward our team.  God gave us unique opportunities to share the gospel and scripture.  We also were able to extend invites to kids for our VBS program.   An overwhelming number of kids showed up!  Here is a picture of our team leading the kids in our Bible and craft time.  img_20160204_161416_559

Prayer Walking

After spending a week with the team, it was easy to see that each person was spiritually challenged.  We were pushed out of our comfort zone and needed God’s help.  For many in the group, praying with people was the most difficult because it was a new experience.  There was fear of the unknown, doubts about how to pray, and if the words would even come out.  Through the doubt came a willingness to step out in faith and let the Lord lead.  At the end of our prayer walk our group was encouraged and shared stories of their experience.

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The Perrotto Family – Mission in Miami

family pic 2Matt and Teri have five children, Alec, Marcus, Ellah, Madelyn and Isaac with ages ranging from 15 to 5 years. Matt and Teri were born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska and chose to raise their family and build their lives there, until God prompted them to make a change. Separately, they were involved with missions in college and for a short time after. Once they were married and had children, it was something they put on hold until joining Christ Community Church (CCC) in Omaha in 2010. While attending CCC Matt and Teri became involved with youth ministry and the family enjoyed helping with community outreach in North Omaha. In November of 2012, Teri was blessed to go on a short term mission trip to China.

Sometime in the fall of 2012, Teri and Matt had a discussion about a long-term family mission trip. They found out that this is something they both had been thinking about quite often, but just hadn’t really talked about. This was the beginning of them sensing God’s call on their lives to be missionaries. In April of 2014, they left everything and moved to the Dominican Republic for a 2-year ministry assignment with an Alliance organization called Envision. While in the DR, the entire family participated in the Mission which built a new church in an impoverished area, expanded 2 other churches that desperately needed more space, painted numerous churches, led thousands of children in VBS, ran sports clinics where they shared the Gospel with the participants and saw God move through prayer ministry in many villages. Their time in the DR passed quickly and the second summer was nearing its end. During that time, they were asked if they would be interested in leading a new Envision site in Miami, Florida with the Alliance. Through a lot of prayer Matt and Teri sensed God leading them to Miami and recently have accepted the Site Coordinator position. They have come back to Omaha to work on raising financial and prayer partnerships.

In Miami, the Perrottos will be working alongside Alliance churches in a multi-cultural setting (Latino, Haitian, Russian, Chinese, and North American). They will be serving in the inner-city and surrounding areas to revive the city for Christ. They will be starting a new Envision Site from the ground level, which will be designed to facilitate short term mission trips while focusing on discipleship of interns and youth. You are invited to join in this work for the Kingdom. Please consider your part, whether it be prayer support, financial partnership or participation in a short term mission to serve God in Miami.

If you would like to discuss this further, please contact us.

email mtap5@yahoo.com  Matt (402)999-2465; Teri (402)999-2462

life-giving sea container heads for Mali

sea1This last weekend about 50 volunteers from CCC packed up a huge sea container full of donated goods for Mali. This was so much more than just “stuff” that people need, but instead “life-giving” items that impact both the physical well-being of the Malian people and their spiritual well-being.

Check out the list of what was on the container:

– Critical medicine and medical supplies for the hospital to treat newborn babies, cancer patients, burn victims, and more.

– Over 200,000 highly nutritious meals (packaged by CCC volunteers) to help fight malnutrition in thousands of children

– New operating room lights so the hospital can open a 3rd surgical ward

– Oxygen tanks, tools, storage cabinets, an ultrasound machine, and other hospital equipment

– 6 laptop and 5 desktop computers to upgrade the computers at the hospital (funded by the Mali Project)

– Dental chairs and dental equipment

– 20 sets of school desks and chairs for Bethel Bible College students

– 15 laptop computers that will be given to next years graduating Pastors at Bethel

– 10 boxes of audio Bibles

– farm tractor that will assist Malian Pastors as they seek to help feed locals in their communities

– and of course, a ton of toilet paper for our missionaries!

As you can see, an impressive list, especially when you consider that most everything on the container was a donation. Please pray that the container arrives safely (probably some time in November) and that these items truly bring life to people in need.

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CCC team ministers in Guatemala orphanage

From July 5-14 a team of 14 people from CCC ministered to around 35 children at an orphanage run by CCC missionaries Norman and Vickie Sutton. This is their story, as told by their team leader, Eva Rhoades.

“And God’s says, I’m gonna turn it into something different. I’m gonna turn it into something good. I’m gonna take all the broken pieces and make something beautiful like only I could. So put it all in the hands of the Father. Give it up, give it all over to the only one who can turn it into something beautiful, something really beautiful.” –Steven Curtis Chapman

IMG_0365Fourteen broken people. Who knew that this random group of people–young & old, rich & poor, new & longtime believers, would be such a vibrant, effective group?

God knew! God only asked us to go with servant hearts… and He would work out the rest. God called each of us on this very trip, and we were obedient. We went. We served. We loved. We played. We laughed. We cried. We learned. We saw God. We felt God. We heard God.

Our group joined CCC missionaries Norman & Vickie Sutton at the orphanage Hogar de Vida, in San Andres, Guatemala. One of our tasks was to put on a vacation Bible school for the younger kids at the Home. The focus for our time with them was on 5 parables Jesus told. All of the planning and preparation that went into the storytelling, the songs, the games, the snacks and the crafts was incredible! Our team did what was asked and God blessed it!

Another task we had was to help with some projects around the Home—most of us painted 5 of the rooms the kids share, while some painted roofs and others even welded. We certainly got our work projects completed, but even better than that, we had fun along the way with our mini-helpers! We would work, and then take a break to push someone on the tire swing, help make bracelets, or paint fingernails.

One morning, we had the opportunity to travel out to a more rural school. While there we were able to help clean and style their hair, play games and share the Gospel. We witnessed team members stepping up and out of their comfort zones to help in ways they didn’t feel comfortable with, but again in obedience of God’s call.

We were also able to spend an entire morning serving the children and staff of the Home by cooking brunch & lunch, and leading the staff in a devotional & craft. Most meals are made from scratch in Guatemala, so spending hours cooking and baking for 60 people was a feat none of us were equipped to do. However, we found much joy out of doing so! It was such a blessing to see the staff stop working, enjoy each other and have some fun.

Though we were expecting God to move, we may not have been expecting all that He had planned and carried out. Walls that had been put up around our hearts, in fear or protection, started to crumble. Hearts began to soften and open to the children of the Home, and to each other. Quiet times in connection with the Lord began to reveal many things. A newfound love for others and for serving began to flourish. A longing to be With God intensified. Lastly, we came away with a desire to bring all of our brokenness to God and have faith that He will use it to glorify and further His kingdom.

Please pray for:
*CCC missionaries Norman and Vickie Sutton.
*The children of Hogar de Vida.
*The people of Guatemala.
*Our team.