Tag: impact waco

Live Courageously

This morning Impact Waco director Susan Peters shared on living courageously in the midst of transition. As we prepare to transition into a new year, we have to let let go of some things in order to embrace all that is ahead. We spent most of our morning in Joshua 1:1-9; where we find Joshua stepping into transition after the death of Moses.

“BE STRONG AND COURAGEOUS…”

Throughout the passage, God calls Joshua to be strong and courageous. He calls us to the very same thing. God knows we are prone to fear, and in His kindness, He encourages us and tells us not to fear.

As we transition and step into a new season, we need to process the loss of what we are transitioning from. Otherwise, we will step into the new season with fear and discouragement instead of expectancy.

IMPERFECTIONS, INTERCESSION AND INTIMACY.

Knowing that we are called to courageously step into the next season, we talked about the three I’s that will help us transition well.

  1. Imperfections // God knows our weaknesses, but they don’t cause God to pull away from us. Even with our weaknesses, God calls us up and places divine purpose within us. When we allow the enemy to amplify our imperfections, it eventually destroys us. God calls us to minimize the inner-critic so we can walk out triumphantly. Moses didn’t let his imperfections hold him back from God’s calling. Instead, he embraced humility. Humility is acknowledging our weakness, but having confidence in the God who strengthens us. Humility is not allowing ourselves to believe that we are less than. In this transition season, God is calling us to shake off the voice of our inner critic and embrace humility.
  2. Intercession // Intercession is simply praying, setting aside time to meet with God and talk with Him like a friend. Even in busyness, Moses set aside time everyday to pray and meet with God. He prayed fervently because he was confident that God would answer his prayers. What would our prayer lives look like if we believed God would actually answer us. When we fervently pray and contend for things, we can be confident that our intercession will lead to provision and miracles. This year, let’s lay aside fear and pray with courage and confidence.
  3. Intimacy // Joshua did not depend on Moses’ connection with God, he wanted his own connection with God. God is inviting us to press in and believe for more. We won’t know the new promises God has for us unless we set aside time to meet with Him and create space for Him to speak. We are not only called to intimacy with God, but also with other people. We need people around us in both victory and defeat. When we lay down our distancing maneuvers and press in, we step into deeper intimacy.

CHANGE DOES NOT EQUAL SUBTRACTION.

Stepping into something new can feel scary. It’s easy to believe that things won’t get better. But God is calling us into so much more! In Him, there is always opportunity for increase. When God asks us to let go, it’s because He wants us to embrace all that is ahead. So, as we get ready to enter 2019, let’s enter with expectancy and confidence that God has even more good in store for us!

IN RESPONSE //

  1. Imperfections: Ask God to speak fresh identity over you in this season, and allow His words to speak louder than that inner-critic.
  2. Intercession: Let’s commit to praying with confidence and faith! Ask God for one area that you can deeper pray into, and begin interceding in that place.
  3. Intimacy: What does courageous intimacy with God and others look like for you this year? Maybe it’s setting your alarm for a half our earlier so you can spend time with God every morning, or maybe it looks like committing to a Lifegroup. Ask God where He is calling you to press in this year.

Impacting our City – STARS Mentoring Project

Antioch_STARS Mentoring

The STARS Mentoring Project exists to mobilize the Church to step in and support the kids, families and schools of our community. STARS has helped hundreds of kids not only improve their reading and develop a love of reading, but also grow emotionally and socially. Throughout the last five years we’ve done Book Clubs in our two neighborhood schools, and they have been two of the three most improved in their reading standards passing rates in Waco ISD!*

This year, three elementary schools and two middle schools in Waco ISD are in a crisis, facing potential closure if they don’t pass state standards this spring.

WE BELIEVE THAT LOVING OUR NEIGHBORS MEANS STEPPING IN TO SUPPORT THEM WHERE THEY HAVE A NEED.

As a church, we have asked the schools what we could do to help their students improve this year. We delivered 1,300 books and reading incentives to these campuses, and all three elementary schools welcomed the idea of Book Clubs.

We then asked at Antioch’s college service for more Book Club volunteers, and had 40 more people sign up. This means almost 100 more students would receive reading help and mentoring through STARS Book Clubs. On top of meeting the principal’s requests, we were also able to give every kid in our neighborhood the opportunity to be in Book Clubs if they wanted. But that’s only the start of the impact!

At one of the new schools, Brook Avenue Elementary, the staff and kids were on board with our mission from the first day. While setting up the first mentors at the school, one of the kids asked, “Is this gonna help me with my reading scores? Cause I really need it.” The boy was in fourth grade, and already worrying about his scores not being good enough.

The mentor replied, “Not only are we here to help with your reading scores, but we’re here to be with YOU.”

As the semester progressed, Book Clubs became more and more popular, with students asking daily how they could join a group. One week, when Book Clubs had to move to the playground, herds of children crowded around each group to try to be a part of them. Upon seeing the chaos, I had to create a one-man human fence around the groups to keep the other kids from being disruptive. Even in the library, kids started trying to sneak in to join groups…as if they wouldn’t be noticed in a group of three.

Soon teachers at the schools began commenting on improved performance from the kids involved and expressed gratitude to us week after week. Just two weeks ago, a teacher approached me and told me how thankful he was for our presence in the schools. He said three of his students who were in Book Club had recently made the three highest scores on their reading test, which they had never done before.

THROUGH THE SIMPLE “YES” OF EVERYONE FROM COLLEGE STUDENTS TO RETIREES WHO ARE VOLUNTEERING WITH STARS, WE HAVE BEEN ABLE TO STEP IN ACROSS OUR CITY TO HELP THESE STUDENTS MAKE IT.

In this process, we have built relationships and trust with students, teachers and principals, as we’ve shown that we believe in them and want to serve and empower them to succeed. Our impact has the potential to grow monumentally in the years to come due to a foundation that has been created this semester.

Our community presented us a major crisis, and guess who is helping fill it…the people of God. Way to go church!

*based on “STAAR Reading Percent at Approaches Grade Level or Above” indexes on Texas Academic Performance Reports

By McKethan Parker – STARS Staff

Mercy House –
Hope, Healing and Restoration

Mercy House is our addiction recovery home for men. Each year men enter the program, and are invested in and empowered to live free from addiction, rooted in their worth and envisioned to make a positive impact in the community around them.

This biblically-based program has four phases:

  • Phase One: Orientation // Individuals are oriented into a new life of structure, accountability and healthy living.
  • Phase Two: Foundation // Individuals experience a holistic approach to recovery that addresses the mental, physical, spiritual and relational health of a man.
  • Phase Three: Reintegration // Individuals re-enter the work force and begin to practice financial skills they have learned, while preparing to transition into independent living.
  • Phase Four: Transition // Individuals live the last two months in independent living, outside of Mercy House with high accountability, while practicing the skills necessary to live a healthy life free from addiction.

The Mercy House is a non-profit organization and is able to operate based on donations and partnerships with people from around the community.

One way you can partner with Mercy House and support the work they are doing is by attending their annual banquet this Thursday, April 12th. Come enjoy dinner and hear powerful testimonies of the healing power of Jesus. Last year, we raised $60,000 at the banquet. Funds went toward programming and house operations.

By partnering with the Mercy House, you get to be a part of allowing men to learn who God has called them to be, and you’re giving them the opportunity to be fathers, sons, brothers and friends once again. Click here to learn more about their upcoming banquet and to buy tickets.

CHECK OUT SOME HIGHLIGHTS FROM LAST YEAR’S BANQUET:

My Search for Significance

I was in the middle of sixth grade when my family moved from a south Dallas suburb, away from everything I’d known, to an affluent town northwest of Dallas. All the kids in my new class already had their group of friends. I did not fit in with these rich, snobby kids. I felt an intense sense of being less-than. With both my parents being at work a lot, it was an extremely difficult period where I experienced lots of rejection.

BECAUSE OF THIS REJECTION, I BEGAN TO SEEK LOVE, ATTENTION AND ACCEPTANCE IN ALL THE WRONG PLACES.

I started hanging out with the older kids and drinking. I finally felt like I fit in through all the attention I was receiving from older guys. That is until I started receiving unwanted attention.

At 16 years old, I was raped by my best friend’s ex-boyfriend in his attempt to hurt her. He succeeded in his endeavor: she was hurt and she took her pain out on me by spreading vicious gossip throughout the school. I was an innocent victim caught in the crossfire of their hate. I had been betrayed and raped by someone I trusted as well as abandoned, further hurt and shamed by a friend I loved.

Because of this traumatic event, I experienced shame and condemnation like never before. How could I have let this happen? How could I have been so stupid? What was wrong with me? 

I LOST MY VOICE.

I didn’t fight the horrible things people said about me because I so desperately just wanted to move on and pretend it never happened. I withdrew from friends and family, started drinking daily and acting out. I hated myself and everyone else.

At 17, I met a guy who I thought was the “love of my life,” a charismatic, intelligent and fun guy; and above all else, he loved me. I got pregnant right away. But it wasn’t long before I realized he had lower self-esteem than I did. Our joint insecurities led to an extremely toxic relationship.

BUT WHEN YOU HAVE SUCH POOR SELF-WORTH, YOU FEEL AS IF YOU DO NOT DESERVE ANY BETTER.

I survived three and a half years of severe, relentless physical and emotional abuse. I was convinced I could change him and unwilling to give up the idea of a perfect family for my son. About a year after the birth of our son, we started doing hard drugs to cope with the deep pain we faced.

I eventually escaped the abusive relationship, but encountered new problems on my own. I was using drugs to numb the pain of the lies I’d been fed for so long and to deal with the abuse I’d suffered. I had finally found an effective method to cope with the pain and low self-worth. Drugs were my escape for the next 10 years of my life.

I CAN SEE NOW THAT THE REAL REASON FOR MY LOW SELF-WORTH WAS THAT I WAS ALIENATED FROM GOD.

I had been living for so long as if I were floating alone in a remote sea without meaning, not caring about anything, especially myself. So the first step in my search for significance was to turn to God, grab His outstretched hand and come out of the darkness to find hope and realize my life is significant. I knew this in my head, but how could I really experience that truth in my heart?

I knew my next step was putting into practice Romans 12:1-2, which says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.  Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.”

I had to break my strongholds and set new ways of thinking about myself. This breakthrough finally came when I asked God into my heart and became reconciled to Him. There was a tangible shift in my perspective.

MY PERCEPTION WAS FINALLY IN LINE WITH GOD’S.

My thinking had changed, which led to a shift in my behavior.

Through this surrender to God’s truth my mind has become progressively renewed. And as my mind is renewed, so is my lifestyle; strongholds are broken; I am transformed. My self-worth is no longer contingent on others’ opinions of me or my performance. I am no longer in bondage. I will not be afraid. I have a VOICE! I can’t change my past, but I will not give it power over me. The abuse I suffered as a 16-year-old was not my fault. I will not continue to let this pain hold me down, suffocate me or keep me from the freedom I deserve and that God so desperately wants me to experience.

GOD LOVES ME SO MUCH THAT HE SENT JESUS TO DIE FOR ME.

Jesus took on all my sins so I could be reconciled to God. I am completely forgiven for any wrongs I have committed and I can forgive others for the wrongs done to me. I am fully pleasing to and totally accepted by God. I am complete in Christ. This is God’s Truth, this is my truth and this is the basis for my self-worth. I now have a new self-awareness and strive to resemble Jesus in all I do. I will never again be conformed to any negative worldly thinking when God has released so much provision. I can see myself through His eyes and experience ongoing transformation.

-A Grace House Testimony

Join us Thursday, May 25th at the Phoenix Ballroom for A Night with Grace House – Let Hope Arise. Throughout the evening, you will have a chance to enjoy dinner while hearing more testimonies of the healing power of Jesus. The event is from 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. and individual tickets are $40. Table prices vary. Learn more and purchase a ticket at gracehousewaco.com

REALIGN

I am still amazed by how much God does inside of each of the REALIGN classes. Many people walk into the class thinking they will be lectured on everything they’re doing wrong financially – how they should be saving more, getting out of debt, sticking to a budget and of course giving to the church!

But every time the most beautiful part of the class is when people realize

it’s really not about the money.

You can see the lightbulb go off above their heads as they realize, “It’s about so much more than money.”

And I know at that moment they got it.

They realize that our financial lives are not just about the dollars and sense. It’s about our relationship with God, it’s about our relationship with ourselves through our beliefs and it’s about our relationships with one another.

Whenever you try to work out your financial issues before getting those three relationships in order first, everything will eventually fall apart.

For years we worked with people and helped them get on a plan, get out of debt, give more, save more, etc., but we realized that those same issues kept coming back up. We realized in order to have true, lasting freedom and financial success, we had to first address the core issues of trusting God, dealing with our broken and destructive thought life, understanding how God created us to manage our money and digging out the bitter root of discontentment.

It’s not until we deal with these foundational issues that we can find true, lasting freedom.

But what we continue to hear through the REALIGN course is that people are finding more and more freedom. Their financial picture might not be changing a ton, but their hearts are more free and they have true peace. Because financial peace is not found in how much money you have saved in a retirement account or how little debt you have. True peace is found as you have clarity on who God is and who you are, and you have purpose with your money, no matter how little or much you have.

By Josh Lawson, Director of Impact Waco

Josh Lawson

The Hope for Homelessness in Schools

Homelessness is a pressing issue within our school district, but God is also moving in big ways through the situation. We recently sat down with Stephanie Korteweg, STARS director and Waco ISD board member, to talk about the homelessness in our schools and how we can respond.

What is the reality of homelessness in the Waco school district?

Stephanie: The definition of homelessness is a student who doesn’t have a secure living situation. This means they could be couch surfing every night, be living in a car or a shelter. What we typically see within the district is two to four families living in the same home. WacoISD has 15,000 students, and over 1,200 students are identified as homeless.

What is the hope for homelessness within our school district?

Stephanie: The God story in all of this is bigger. It’s bigger than just homelessness and bigger than what we can see. It’s believers in this community rallying around homelessness and saying, “not in our city.” Looking at the history of the Church, the Church has always been social services by starting schools, hospitals and providing other resources. We’re starting to see the church awaken to what is happening with a willingness to step up to the plate. This is where we see the power of God because it isn’t just one church leading out, but it is a collaboration of believers within the city.

Believers are working together and the byproduct is unity within our city.

From my perspective, it is encouraging to see people from the faith community in positions that are impacting our city. We’re all there for the same reason, to see our community thrive, and to see the betterment of those who don’t have as much.

How can we, as the Church, respond to this situation?

Stephanie: The Church brings hope to the situation. We have the opportunity to walk alongside and help students who are identified as homeless. In many cases, help can look as easy as encouraging them. There are many ways people can get involved, whether it is financially or by volunteering.

Prayer is also a big component. Pray for people involved with helping these students. Many people do what they do with excellence and they need our prayers, support and covering. What they’re doing isn’t just helping kids, they’re in the front lines and it can be physically and emotionally draining. Ultimately, pray for the lives of these kids to be transformed. That’s the heart for the situation, to not only see the kids get by, but really be transformed.

One practical way we as a church have responded to homelessness is by donating $10,000 to The Cove. The Cove, a center for displaced teens in Waco, gives students the opportunity to eat a good meal, do laundry, take a shower, have a quiet place to do homework and hang out after school. From the beginning, we have committed to taking a portion of what has been given toward our building project and invest it back into our city. We are so thankful to have the opportunity to invest back into our city because of the generosity of our people!

Week in Pictures

We have had an exciting week! This past Sunday, Jimmy continued our Hope Is Coming series with an encouraging message on how we each can be vessels of hope to those around us. Our preschool kids also did an awesome job leading us in worship and sharing Scripture. It was also our first Big Impact Sunday, where we collected stuffed animals and towels to give to the Family Abuse Center and The Advocacy Center.

Our kids did an awesome job in their performance on Sunday!

Of course, our parent paparazzi also did a great job capturing every moment.

Blown away by the generosity and all of the donations we received at our first Big Impact Sunday!

Antioch’s gift to the Advocacy Center

We were able to donate over 500 towels from Sunday’s donations!

Jose delivering towels

Our kids jumped in to help us load up all of the stuffed animals!

This morning, our team had the opportunity to take our donations to the two centers. In our first week, we collected enough stuffed animals to give to children for a year! It is so fun having the opportunity to come together and give back to our community. Our second Big Impact Sunday is this week, and we would love for you to jump in if you haven’t already.

Five Ways To Stay Out Of Debt This Christmas

If I were honest, I don’t really love Christmas. I love getting to spend time with my family and having a nice meal and opening up gifts, but I just can’t get into the whole Christmas season thing. My wife, on the other hand, started playing Christmas music on November 1st. And after six years of marriage, I have finally come to grips with the fact that Christmas starts early in the Lawson household and it is a really BIG deal.

Our first year of marriage I asked Jenny how much she wanted to spend on Christmas. After I peeled myself up off the floor, I looked at her with a dazed look and said, “You want to spend hooow much?” It seemed like we were going to buy gifts for everyone including my long-lost Uncle Frank. We eventually worked through it, but not until after tears were shed on both sides.

Over the next few years I would meet with families who would confess to overspending for Christmas. Many of these families would blow through a year-end bonus, empty out their savings or even end up putting it on their credit cards.

It was painful to listen to the countless number of families who had so much heartache and regret connected to what should be a joy-filled occasion.

So, here are FIVE SIMPLE WAYS you can avoid debt this Christmas:

  • 1. Set An Amount to Spend: This amount should be what you currently have available in cash reserves. If you don’t have anything already saved up for Christmas, then you either need to get creative or you will need to sell things to get some extra cash. Either way, set a concrete amount to spend and don’t go over that amount.
  • 2. Make a List and Check It Twice: Once you have your set amount to spend, it’s time to work through your gift list. Remember, you can’t please everyone and Uncle Frank really doesn’t need another tie. It might hurt you not be able to get your great-great Aunt Sue something this Christmas, but overspending will hurt a lot worse. Get together with your spouse and decide who MUST-HAVE a gift this year, and then prioritize the rest of your list from there.
  • 3. Get Creative: If you don’t have a whole lot of money to spend then don’t assume you can’t get someone a gift. Be creative and think of something you could make, bake or create that they would love. One of the best Christmas gifts I have ever given to my mom was a video montage of my parents’ early years. She adores it still to this day and it cost me absolutely nothing.
  • 4. Disconnect from the Fray: Christmas time is a marketer’s dream. They pump our televisions, inboxes and mailboxes full of advertisements to stir up the “wanter” inside of us. Disconnect yourself from the madness of Christmas and stick to your plan.
  • 5. Someone Else: The power of accountability is most needed in stressful and emotionally-charged times. Christmas tends to be both. Open up with another person or family and ask them to hold you accountable to saying no to debt and enjoying the true meaning of Christmas.

What are some other creative ways you can avoid the pitfalls of debt this Christmas season?

By Josh Lawson, Director of Community Engagement

I Make Kids Cry.

Sometimes part of my job is making kids cry.

No, it’s not in my job description, but it comes with the territory of managing STARS, Antioch’s mentoring program that matches volunteers from the church with kids in our neighborhood.  Last week, my victim was Jessie.

For the past few weeks, Jessie and David, two second-grade boys, had been meeting with their mentor (a stay-at-home mom) for STARS Book Club.  Once a week, they sit in the library over their thirty-minute lunch period and eat, talk and practice reading a book together.

“I’m sorry guys, but your mentor can’t come to book club today- her son is sick,” I told Jessie, as he chose between chicken nuggets and burritos in the cafeteria lunch line.

I didn’t really think it would be that big a deal if they missed a week- they only recently started book club, so I doubted they even remembered their mentor’s name.  However, as I saw Jessie’s face scrunch up as he tried unsuccessfully to hold back tears, it hit me again:

this is such a big deal for these kids.

Having someone who comes to the school every week just for you, who believes in you, who laughs with you, who encourages you that you can make it and that you’re a good reader- it’s something many of these kids rarely experience, and it matters so much to them.

But more than that, it’s something they desperately need.  Third-graders from low-income families who can’t read at grade level are eight times more likely never to graduate from high school.  If you stood on top of our new church building and looked out over our neighborhood, that assessment would be true for most of the kids in the houses you’d see.

But this is where we, the church, are stepping in and saying, “Enough!”  It’s where we are believing that God has more for these families than discouragement and failure, and where we’re putting our faith in action until we see that change happen.  And that change has started, with now one hundred and twenty-two volunteers from our church meeting with over three hundred kids every week.  It looks like that second-grader, Jessie, who is so impacted by his mentor that he cries when she can’t come.  Or Kaye, a retiree, whose girls jumped up an entire grade level in their reading after just four months, taking them out of that eight-times-more-likely-never-to-graduate category.  It looks like Carlos, who wrote to his mentor Sam, saying “You are like a big brother to me,” and the principal telling us the atmosphere at the school changed once we came in.

Some people think if you’re too spiritually minded you’re of no earthly good- yet we are seeing change in our community and our schools not in spite of our spiritual-mindedness, but because of it!  Because we have encountered God and know He has good things for us, we are full of hope for the lives of those around us.  Because we know that God is in the business of restoration, we seek restoration in every part of people’s lives.  Because we believe that nothing is impossible for God, we pray for our community, get involved in people’s lives, serve them, love them and expect great things to happen.

James says, “Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds” (James 2:18b).

Our deeds are not a replacement for our faith, but a result of it!  And I am full of hope for our community and our city, because day after day I see our people’s faith by their deeds, changing lives through their small, consistent acts of love (most of our mentors just meet with their kids for thirty minutes a week).  So yes, sometimes I have to bear bad news that will make kids cry- but I am so encouraged that we, the church, are giving them something that’s worth crying about.

Learn more about STARS and apply to be a mentor here.

STARS is funded by TDFPS through Communities in Schools in the Heart of Texas.

By Michael Jeter, Assistant Director of STARS

What Are You Doing For Lunch?

For years I believed mentoring meant you basically had to adopt a kid, take him on vacation and pay for his college tuition one day.

But I found out this past year that being a mentor through STARS Book Clubs was almost too easy.

I could be a mentor and make a legitimate impact on the life of a kid (actually three kids) in a mere 30 minutes a week. All I had to do was go to their school during lunch, meet the kids in the library, ask them how their week was, read a book together and tell them they were awesome. That’s it. 30 minutes, once a week.

And the boys I was mentoring have actually shown some remarkable improvement in their reading ability. After only a few months of being a part of the Book Club, they had improved an average of over one grade level. Imagine the impact of hundreds of kids having book club leaders spend 30 minutes a week with them. The results would be incredible.

We already have 80 mentors meeting with more than 200 students -but we need more mentors! The qualifications for being a mentor come down to this: “Can you read?” and “Do you have 30 minutes a week?”

Be a part of an incredible thing happening in our church and at Provident Heights Elementary School during lunch times. Sign up to be a STARS mentor today!

By Josh Lawson, Director of Community Engagement