Published by Ericson Frank on 15 Nov 2013
Published by Ericson Frank on 01 Aug 2013
Published by Ericson Frank on 10 Jul 2013
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Published by Ericson Frank on 01 Jul 2013
I went to the ER in June with a 103-degree fever two days running. It was the same fever I had contracted when I ate some food in my travels to Bolivia a month earlier. I had visited Bolivia for one week to work with our good friends who live, work, and serve at their local church. I enjoyed my friends, and I worked along side my buddy and his neighbors and church members to develop their community together while I was there. Bolivia is a developing country. It’s the most impoverished Latin American country from years of warring nations stealing their resources, blocking them from trade on the coast, and regime after regime of extreme corruption oppressing their own people for personal gain. I entered into that poverty for one week and got the sickest I’ve been in my life from eating salad. It was no unexplained mystery or “boogie man”. Bacteria got in my blood and made me so sick I was delusional. I was seeing star bands across my field of vision, hurt all over, and was extremely dehydrated to the point that I would have died without medical attention of some sort. I needed an I.V. and some antibiotics to kill the malevolent bacteria. I also experienced the grace of God during this low point.
Most people want to experience grace, or unmerited favor from someone they’re connected to: friends, family, a mentor, a higher power of some sort, or, in my case, I’ll refer to God. People want to do well. People want to have nice things. And people want meaningful relationships of varying degrees. At the root of relationships, I believe people want to feel loved and know they are favored. I believe people can experience God’s unmerited love and favor at all points in life. In times of celebration, challenge, and even suffering.
Some people know the grace of God. They have experienced it. Grace in real life. Some people have endured so much in their life that they know they couldn’t have made it day by day without the grace of God. Some people depend on God’s grace to make it through today, and will need it to make it through tomorrow. Others have had a pretty good life and perhaps have less of a need of grace. I wish a good life for us all, but if we have all we need, have no trials to speak of, and have no loss or suffering, then we may have little felt-need for grace. I often feel like I have a pretty good life and don’t have a lot to complain about. I might even be so bold (or honest) to say I don’t always feel my need for grace. If I have a good day, maybe I didn’t feel I needed God’s grace to make it through. I wager many of my friends, neighbors and countrymen have pretty good lives overall compared to many others in our world. I wonder how much we all feel the need for God’s grace in our lives? Absolutely, there are story after story of how we have endured trials, challenges, and problems. Assuredly, we can share stories of hardship, loss, and suffering. I do sense a feeling that many of us wish and pray to never go through these things so we can continue on in our good life that works out all the time.
So what do we do when we experience real life challenges and suffering? We can experience grace in the midst of suffering. Psalms is the great book of hymns and prayers written by King David of old as well as his seers and priests. Psalm 119 is the longest poetic prayer-hymn with many stanzas and a total of 176 verses! This psalm contains a familiar and encouraging verse: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path (v.105).” The psalmist only recites these words after proclaiming this: “Remember your word to your servant, for you have given me hope. My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life. It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your good news. The word from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold. I know, O LORD, that your laws are righteous, and in faithfulness you have afflicted me. May your unfailing love be my comfort, according to your promise to your servant. Let your compassion come to me that I may live, for your ways are my delight (vs. 49,50,71,72,75-77).” Obviously, the psalmist is talking about more than the verses I’ve selected, but I’m looking at a certain element of this prayer. Whoever is praying these prayers to God is thanking God for suffering! They’re saying it was good to be afflicted, but moreover God was faithful through the affliction.
This is astounding to me, but I recently heard a similar authentic prayer from a man in Bolivia. He started his prayer by thanking God for his family and church and God’s provision in his life (which was pretty meager compared to an American standard of living). Then he prayed something like this: ”Heavenly Father, thank you for times of trial and suffering in our lives. It is these times when we know we need you most. It is these times that we experience your grace and goodness so that we may be drawn closer to you. We experience your grace through your living words in the Bible, through your words of life spoken by our pastor, and through the encouragement and fellowship of our brothers and sisters in our church.” I wept as he prayed this authentic, grateful prayer. I’ve never heard anyone thank God for suffering like this man had. I knew of some of his suffering. He almost died of a severe illness the year before! He had truly experienced the love and grace of his heavenly Father. He was thankful for the awful experiences that lead to that point because of the richness of God’s grace he experienced, and because he felt like he got to know God in a more intimate and real way. What a testimony to share!
I hope more of us continue to experience the goodness of God and receive his grace. I hope more of us might learn that trials, hardships, and suffering can actually be an opportunity to receive God’s grace ourselves, and may present an opportunity to reflect the quality and character of God to others enduring such circumstances. Our mission at CCC continues to be, “Expressing the love of God by equipping the Church to help people.” My prayer is that our neighbors experience a concrete expression of grace each time we are together. For those of us enduring suffering, hear the words of the psalmist once more, and may we pray this together for one another: ”Defend my cause and redeem me; preserve my life according to your promise. Great peace have they who love your ways, and nothing can make them stumble. I wait for your salvation, O LORD (vs.154 & 165).”
Published by Nick Dunn on 25 Feb 2013
Engage 2013 was amazing! Over 60 of us packed into the Christian Study Center classroom to discuss justice as it relates to developing our community together.
In the first session, Peter Wohler of the Source in Minneapolis laid a groundwork for talking about themes of biblical justice playing out in the lives of homeless, marginalized, and even trafficked youth. Vickie Machado of the Gainesville Catholic Worker described how a ministry rooted in the things and rhythms of an intentional community house can be the place where far-ranging ideals of economic, social, ecological, and theological justice are realized.
In the second session, Peter got really practical. He discussed the Source Annex model of transitional housing for trafficking victims, and cast a vision for churches everywhere to have similar small, incubator communities for helping these women grow into a new life in freedom. Finally, Alison Ungaro shared the inspiring story of Created, a ministry to street-involved women right here in Gainesville. Keep in touch through twitter or subscribe to her email list.
We hope you stay engaged with the work these great brothers and sisters are doing!
Published by Ericson Frank on 15 Feb 2013
Published by Ericson Frank on 23 Jan 2013
We have celebrated CCC’s 25th anniversary over this past year. 2012 has been a year of remembering CCC’s founding by Lynn and Suzanne Groce. We’ve been looking back on CCC’s service and what we have accomplished together. And it’s been a year of asking ourselves and others how we will continue to develop our community together.
God’s gift of grace has been and always will be the beginning of the answer to that question. God called the Groces to the mission of “expressing the love of God by equipping the Church to help people.” They were faithful, being gifted God’s grace to accomplish this task. It has been the daily gift of grace from God these last 9 years that has enabled me and CCC’s board members, volunteers, and supporters to accomplish our work. God’s grace has empowered our acts of service, sacrificial offerings, and expressions of the love of God, which we have experienced ourselves, to the ‘last,’ the ‘least,’ and the ‘lost’. God’s grace is the fuel that sustains and drives this community of people. Everything we have accomplished, every gift we have received: all grace. Every heart we have touched, every life we have mentored, any faith encouraged: all grace.
It is out of this gift of grace that we have relationship with God; such a relationship never stems from works. Yet Ephesians 2:10 tells us we are “created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” James 1:27 says, “True religion is this: caring for widows and orphans in their time of distress.” I resonate with the calling in Acts 6:3 talking about caring for the widows and orphans. We feel a call and a responsibility to equip ourselves and equip others to care for our elders and neighbors in crisis. This is how we started. This is how we continue.
CCC’s board and staff met right at the start of 2013 to pray, read the scriptures, and to continue dreaming and planning what this community could look like–and how we might play a role. Many of our ‘big, audacious goals’ were met in 2012: our biggest ever ENGAGE panel discussion, “5 days, 5 ramps” completed, 4 widows had a ‘fantastic home facelift’ with over 120 volunteers serving, generous financial support, and a donated second work truck! We planned, we worked hard, and people faithfully served, though I see it all as grace: a free gift from our gracious Father in Heaven that is equipping people to see peace on earth.
2013′s goals include 5 homes getting a ‘facelift’ and celebrating like no other block party we’ve been involved in, and receiving and delivering more furniture, now with two trucks, to our neighbors in crisis. We invite you to receive God’s grace to move you to come and follow us. Together, we’ll see our beloved community loving and serving our neighbors in the name of Jesus. We’ll see our community develop into a place where everyone can flourish. We’ll see justice roll down. Grace and peace. -Ericson Frank
Published by Ericson Frank on 22 Jan 2013
Published by Ericson Frank on 17 Jan 2013
Published by Nick Dunn on 16 Jan 2013
Christians Concerned for the Community commits to helping families in crisis in Alachua County with nothing or next to nothing to meet their need for basic furniture and appliances.
Most folks assume this will always mean we simply redistribute donated furniture right to their doorstep. While that’s often true, some of my favorite moving jobs go more like this:
One afternoon about 2pm, I returned a voicemail to a neighbor requesting furniture. I explained that I’d need to come by and do a home visit, and if we eventually delivered furniture there could be quite a long wait. Then I encouraged her to give us a call if she found anything on her own.
By 2:30pm, she’d found a free couch and loveseat on craigslist. 2:45 I was loading them with the donor’s help. By 3:00pm, I was watching the neighbor’s friends unload them right into her apartment.
This story captures 3 things I love about furniture transportation at CCC:
3) The neighbor saved herself a long wait by taking action immediately.
2) God appointed 3 people at two sites to help, all without my planning/strategizing/worrying.
1) The neighbor did it; CCC and other folks merely equipped.
So, tell us here or over at our Facebook page: who in your family, neighborhood, or church desperately wants to take action to improve their situation? How might you use just an hour or two of your time to leverage their initiative and resources for success?