Written by Elaine Button
I would like to share what my faith means and what being a part of Forest Hills Presbyterian Church means to me. A number of years ago I went to Guatemala with a team from Peaks Presbytery. We were hosted by CEDEPCA (The Evangelical Center for Pastoral Studies in Central American). This organization teaches and trains pastors and works with indigenous women to be help them have a trade that will help them provide for their families. CEDEPCA is supported by a number of Presbyteries, including Presbytery of the Peaks and other Presbyterians in the US. In fact a few years ago some of the leaders and teachers came here to Forest Hills. The Joy gift offering a few years back helped provide a building for these Guatemalan women to show and sell their beautiful woven scarves, clothing and hangings. I feel fortunate to have one hanging in my house that I purchased from one of the Guatemalan women. I am proud to be in a church that supports the kind of much needed education and practical support that I witnessed while in Guatemala.
I also have the honor of serving on the Grants Committee of Peaks Presbytery. This is a group of folks from all over the Presbytery who meet three times a year to award grants to groups who are working on hunger issues. We award monies from the two-cents-a-meal program to churches and civic groups who provide backpack programs for children at schools who would likely go hungry if it was not for these backpacks full of food sent home with the children. We award grants to Outreach programs and food pantries. Each cycle that I have been a part of, our own Grace Network has received funds to assist in their food pantry. I have been very touched by the amount of care and concern shown by these civic and church groups. I also am overwhelmed by the significant hunger problems in our own region. I am so honored to serve on this committee and be a part of this important Peaks Presbytery effort.
I am equally proud to be a part of Forest Hills and to get to know many in our congregation especially when they experience grief, sickness or joy. As the Session Liaison to Congregational Care Ministry I have had the privilege of helping provide or coordinate meals or food, rides for doctor’s appointment, home, hospital and nursing home visits, phone calls or sending a simple note to some in our congregation to let them know I am thinking and praying for them. I am sure that I always receive more of a blessing from these interactions than the other person I am trying to help or comfort. But that is true almost always, I think when we serve and help others we are often the ones who receive the blessing.
So as you can see, my faith in Jesus Christ and his teaching to feed the poor, visit the sick, etc. moves me to get involved in the many needs both locally and beyond. This is where God placed me on this earth and I am trying to follow him as the Holy Spirit leads.
Written by Barbara Wilson
By way of a continuing education opportunity, I recently attended a regional convention of the American Guild of Organists, held in Charlotte, N.C. In Charlotte, convention participants were bused to various venues, including Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S. C., site of the opening recital by French artist Olivier Latry, and several area churches which generously opened their doors for the opening and closing worship services, evening prayer, recitals, meetings, workshops and meals.
Titled The French Connection, the convention took a French theme in much of the organ music presented. I learned that the theme was chosen because several steering committee members had pursued advanced organ study in France. In fact, one of the seminars, in the context of an interview with Michael Barone, convention host and founder of the radio program Pipedreams, featured the recollections of Fulbright scholars Margaret Mueller, Professor Emerita of Organ at Salem College in North Carolina, and Robert Burns King, retired in 2007 after 45 years of service as Organist-Choirmaster of First Presbyterian Church in Burlington, N.C., about their studies with famous organists in France and Germany in the mid-1900s.
A number of works were commissioned especially for the convention, including a choral piece, Lead Kindly Light, by David Conte (b. 1955). It was sung by the Atlanta Master Chorale, under the direction of Dr. Eric Nelson, as part of their concert at First United Methodist Church, Charlotte. Another was a powerful hymn sung at the closing worship service held at Covenant Presbyterian Church: Hear the City Filled with Singing, with music composed by noted hymnwriter Sally Ann Morris and text by Mary Louise Bringle, Professor at Brevard College, incorporating imagery from the Revelation into a Te Deum- like text, while the tune has the feeling of a French Dance.
Particularly uplifting was the opening worship service at Providence United Methodist Church, where the message was delivered by the Rev. Dr. William Bradley Roberts, Professor of Church Music at Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Virginia. Using Philippians 4:4-8 (Rejoice in the Lord always) as his text, he spoke of the importance of setting aside time for one’s own spiritual nourishment in preparation for providing spiritual nourishment for others. Drawing on the example of French waiters, who are fed first before serving others, he said, “Don’t eat leftovers!” He assured the congregation of church musicians that God wants to nourish, bless, and feed us, and urged us to “think about these things” (Philippians 4:8). Following up on this theme at the closing worship service, Dr. Roberts reminded the assembly of the responsibilities of leadership, to “remember who we work for”, and said one’s own transformation overflows to others in a way that can’t be contained.
I couldn’t help thinking that this could be encompassing advice for all of us, as we are in some capacity both leading and serving others: to take time for our own spiritual nourishment and know that God wants to nourish, bless and feed us.
Written by Sue Lyford
Our mission in West Virginia on Butler Mountain was to tear down and rebuild a deck for a lady named Gladys. Her old deck was dilapidated and unsafe. Gladys definitely had more issues than a bad deck, roof, and mail box, all of which our group repaired, but then so do all of us as individuals. I find that even though I am able to help others and provide them with some improvement in quality of life physically and spiritually these mission trips also enable me to see where I need to improve the quality of my own life – specifically my own relationship with Christ.
My anxiety about going on the mission trip for whatever reason, whether its fear of the unknown or my social anxiety, definitely crops up and is evident to me when my eczema decides to show itself – I call it my stress bumps! It often appears before I am even aware that I’m stressed and internalizing all of my feelings and fears. Sometimes I just need to face what I dread most and most of the time I find I have nothing to dread! Trust in the Lord and He will take care of us! I seem to learn this lesson over and over and over again.
Working with the team I saw we are all in the same boat. Our anxiety and fear manifests itself in different ways. Some of us work quietly helping out any way possible, some speak their mind about everything, some worked harder or longer, some take charge of miscellaneous jobs and some avoid different jobs. Regardless we all gave our best effort and together we were able to complete our tasks for Gladys in a week’s time. It took all of us with our strengths and weaknesses. In spite of our differences in how we see and handle things we all were striving for the same thing – inner Peace – a gift from God. We all united as a group to make someone’s life better. Gladys may not get much pleasure herself out of her new deck because of her physical constraints but she can have peace knowing that others out of God’s love wanted to take care of her needs and that others will be safe walking on her deck, her roof won’t leak, and her mailbox won’t fall over.
Yet again I learned that He is in control and that in giving our troubles and concerns to God, we can find peace and comfort in knowing that He will guide us in all our missions in life.
Written by Liza Moore
I put pen to paper to try to capture my experiences and encounters with You. I do it to remind myself that Your love won't taper.
But my problem is that it seems like the struggles and pain won't taper either. It seems to be a cycle of
Torn, abandoned, frayed, battered, worn,
Recycling to more
Worry, pain, fear, anger, strain.
As personal fear, failure and weariness piles up, So do the number of people I know dying of cancer, heart attacks and suicide.
In the overwhelming desolation, in the desert lacking a drip of water, it seems like You want me to decide.
Will it be me, who easily ignoring the truth, relies on all I can do, without You? Or will it be you who knows me better than I know myself?
Will It be me, fearful of what others think, a control freak? Or will it be you, alpha and omega, forever my help?
My question in this decision, of course, becomes what will I gain? While choosing myself may earn me fame or a good name, I know in the end I can never win in that game.
You set this game aside. No, you flip it over, tilt and upheave it. You say if I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. (2 Cor 11:30)
Boast in my weakness? That means showing my cracks, being proud of the holes, the mess and the hardened ugliness.
How can that be? I often get distracted with what I want for me. You offer us wisdom, joy, patience, kindness and peace. (Gal 5:23) Those things seem fleeting, temporary and phony.
The bare truth of the matter is the only thing you offer is You.
While I spat on You, taunted You and nailed You to a tree,
You willingly died to give Life to me.
While I ignore You, deny You and refuse to trust,
You loved me enough to die. Who am I, but dust?
So its You I choose. Everything else in this life I can lose, but not your constant presence.
Yes, you say we can pray in your name and get what we want (John 14:14), but You are also my shepherd and I shall not want.
These verses may seem to contradict when in reality they perfectly click. When we follow you deeply, putting aside our selfishness, You are all we want. You are enough. That doesn't mean that life becomes peachy, that there are no trials. But through every trial we must choose to focus on You.
You who renews and subdues my worried mind that is mired.
You who gives strength and healing when my Halleluyah's tired.
Lord every hour, every minute remind me that in You,
I must trust.
Because you love me and know me, even though
I am just dust.
Our youth recently attended the "One Bread, One Body" youth conference at Lake Junaluska, NC. Below is a compilation of their thoughts from the conference!
Isaiah 58: 9b-12
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
The Lord will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.”
“We have built a wall of comfort around us and then we ask why God doesn’t do miracles anymore. Come out from behind the wall of comfort and see the miraculous things God is doing.”
“When everyone is running out of a bad situation, Christ Followers should be running in….”
-Shane Claiborne, Key Speaker for the first two nights
Favorite Quotes of the Weekend submitted by Our Youth
“We might die if we do it (“run in”) but to not do it would be a different kind of death”. submitted by Matt
“Hello Beautiful People” submitted by Josh as quoted by Cionna Rouse who was the second Key note for the weekend. She used this as a greeting every time she spoke.
Cionna also said “We are not just beautiful on the outside, but the inside too. We should tell others that often. It truly makes a difference!”
submitted by Sarah
“The fact that we take so much for granted while children everywhere have nothing…” submitted by Scout
“No one is broken beyond repair” submitted by Garrett
“I really liked the first speaker, (Shane Claiborne). His point of view was really good and interesting. He was funny too.” submitted by Emilee
“(I liked) how Cionna talked about “seeing people” and how when they are “seen”, they come alive.” submitted by Emmie
“I learned that nobody is different from anyone else, and the closer you get to God, the better your life will be.” submitted by RJ
Check out some pictures from the trip on the Youth Page of our website
Forest Hills youth participated in a Stop Hunger Now event during their Friday afternoon “free time” and prepared enough meals for 8ooo people. Thank you Forest Hills for your support of the Youth of this congregation!
Written by Audrey Moore
How did the West Virginia Mission Trip draw me closer to Jesus? Well, I knew from the beginning that using a hammer or drill wasn’t exactly where I had any real strengths. I had NO idea how to go about building a porch or anything for that matter. I was a little anxious about starting something new. “Will I look stupid or unqualified? Can I catch on quickly?” I also knew from the beginning that people were and are my passion. I love nothing more than learning about people and hearing their stories. When I heard that children lived on one of the work sites, I secretly wished that that was where I would get placed…and I did.
The dance of meeting someone is always fascinating to me. Both parties test the waters and want to know one thing, “Can I trust this person?” It takes time to develop such trust. And it’s especially hard to develop relationships knowing that a time will come when both people have to say goodbye. Each day that passed, I was picturing the idea of flowers in bloom. Personalities come out fully when trust is established and things become more beautiful, more real, and more raw. My way to avoid that uncomfortable feeling was to work on the porch.
The first day, I gained confidence over some power tools. But, that was in NO way the REASON that I was there. The next day, I did some porch work, but less than before and with help from my new found friends the Martin children. The third day, the porch work was only in the back of my mind as the relationships I was forming became more glaringly important.
I found Jesus saying to me, “Isn’t that the way that anything has meaning—through relationships?” One of my professors used to say that the three things necessary for growth in counseling were, “Relationship. Relationship. Relationship.” The same is true for serving. As Maya Angelou said, “People will forget what you say, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” I wanted those children to feel valued, included, nurtured, and loved. During those few days it was what I wanted more than anything else.
Just as my spirit predicted would happen, being intentionally relational made for a painful separation on Thursday. As my family took our car away from the lot, I saw sweet Corey wave her hands for us to stop. Those big blues eyes with her freckles and curly strawberry blonde hair came to my window with a look of both hope and sadness.
She handed me a tiny tin box with princesses on it. It had been used as a tin to carry puzzle pieces but they were not there, but that didn’t matter. We both said we loved each other and as we drove off I wept. I had loved and it hurt. The Healer and Comforter whom I know and love would always be with those children too and I was merely a privileged vessel to have lived with those precious faces in their world. The same One who loves me fiercely at my worst and best was there before I showed up and I’m resting in that.
Henri Nouwen sums this up best: "Every time we make the decision to love someone, we open ourselves to great suffering, because those we most love cause us not only great joy but also great pain. The greatest pain comes from leaving… if we want to avoid the suffering of leaving, we will never experience the joy of loving. And love is stronger than fear, life stronger than death, hope stronger than despair. We have to trust that the risk of loving is always worth taking."
In only 1 week, the mission team of 19 people from Forest Hills was able to start and finish 4 projects for people in need in Cabin Creek, WV! Below are descriptions and pictures from each of those projects.
Project #1 - Connie's New Porch
Written by Mary Alice Ferguson
On the first day of work our, group split into 2 teams. One of those teams worked on a porch at home of a grandmother, Connie, and her five grandchildren.
The original porch was demolished. New posts were placed and the framing took shape. New planks were installed. Nancy, Sue, and Marilyn checked that each post was plumb and level before securing it into place. Ron, Marilyn, and Jim tackled many heavy loads together. Lucy mastered the use of the table saw. Audrey and Liza were a joy as they worked with everyone. I found my niche as the remover of scrap and trash. Our supervisor, Tim, explained and trained all of us on the proper use of the electrical equipment. Sue securely screwed each board in place. This site was alive with activity. The music of a family cockatoo blended with the chatter of the children and family dogs.
The children were wonderful, despite very poor living conditions. Buddy/Roy wanted to help with everything. When he was behaving he was called Buddy, but when naughty he was addressed as Roy. Emily, Courtney, and Corey were beautiful young girls that helped their grandmother. Audrey and Liza became mentors and friends to the children. They created a "school spot" in the shade of a tree where reading, numbers, conversation, and talks of Jesus became an important part of our mission. The family dogs were held and petted. Soon the children brought fingernail polish outside and several of us got our nails painted.
On the porch, the finished steps and handrails stood sturdy and strong. Goodbye and tears were exchanged as we left a completed project. Prayers for each child filled our hearts. The children built a wooden cross with a single red flower for us to take back to FHPC.
Project #2 - Nadine's New Roof
Written by Bradley Long
When I first heard we were doing a roof again this year I have to admit that I was a little worried. Last year we had done a roof that took the whole week and was quite challenging (I had to throw away a tar-covered pair of jeans when I got home!)
Thankfully this year's roof, for a lovely lady named Nadine, was much easier! We worked to install a bright red metal roof over the shingles, many of which had become worn. Despite some occasional banter and disagreement about how to proceed (there were 2 pastors in this group - myself and Bob Button!), we were able to finish the project in two days.
Nadine was very thankful and also very gracious. On the first day, she brought out an almost empty bag of Milky Ways to offer to us only to exclaim, "My goodness! I didn't realize there were so many of you!" Nadine shared with us about her work as treasurer at the church she attends. She also is a collector of dolls and insisted that any of us who had young girls in our families take a doll home with us.
This project was a true blessing to those of us who worked on it, especially because we could see Jesus in our new friend Nadine.
Project #3 - Goldie's New Deck
Written by Bradley Long and Marcy Heffinger
Goldie is a lady who lives by herself in a small trailer that is just off a busy road that sees non-stop trucks hauling coal on it every day. Her back deck was in severe disrepair and we were able to replace it over the span of 2 days. First, we dismantled the old deck and then set about building the new one under the direction of our site supervisors Art and Tyler.
What was so special about this deck was the way the youth took the lead in the work we were doing and saw the project through to the end. Their confidence shown through, using the skills they had learned all week, so much so that no one gave a second thought to Emilee using a miter saw or any of the boys measuring and leveling the railing. Jim continued his roof routine by sealing Goldie's roof from a ladder.
Both of us (Bradley and Marcy) feel so blessed to have seen God changing lives, especially the lives of our young people, through the service we did.
Project #4 - Silvia's New Deck
Written by Sue Lyford
This mission trip was a great experience for me as I have never been on one of this nature before.
My second project with my team was to help fix a deck/porch that was already built but needed some extra support and stability. This deck was for a woman by the name of Silvia who had the most beautiful view of the mountains from every side of her property. Although her trailer looked as if it had been around for quite a while you could tell that she cared about it. Her yard was well kept with flowers growing in pots around her home. Silvia was a very sweet woman, soft spoken, and quiet. She came out to talk to us when we were finished with the project. She praised us for the work we had done and looked very pleased with the way it turned out. She gave Audrey, Liza and I a hug before leaving her to enjoy her new improved porch. I cannot remember her exact words but she did express what a blessing our coming had been to her.
Although it had been our last day of work and we were all feeling a little weary and wanting to be through for the day we were blessed to have extra hands come to help us finish the project that day! It felt really good to be able to go on this mission trip and be a part of a great group of people helping others no matter what shape or form our help took. In the end we all received a little extra support and stability so to speak (emotionally, spiritually, and physically) by interacting with new people as well as those we already knew!
Written by Lucy Moore
Scraps of wood
A screaming grandma
Wandering friendly dogs
A woman sharing her treasures
Sleeping on couches
Cabinets filled with china and punch cups
Rusty mining shafts
Fluffy cats in cars
The whirring of saws
The face of Christ
Kids climbing trees
Singing Happy Birthday
Children eager to love and learn
Tall mountains lush with trees and wildlife
Dirty dusty skin
A hot soothing shower
Squawking pet birds
Empty flower pots
Clear blue sky
A stolen jacket
Creased blue jeans
Speeding trucks filled with coal
A teenager staring downward
The smell of waste and decay
The shout of a train whistle
A winding mountain descent
Dusty punch bowls
Cheap paper plates
Filling slower pots
Written by Mary Alice Ferguson
The mission trip to Montgomery, West Virginia began as the Forest Hills Presbyterian Church members met in the parking lot for a 2 pm departure. Bedrolls, crockpots, work boots, hammers, tape measure, and shampoo were loaded into cars. West Virginia mountains welcomed us with green mountains flowing streams and CSX coal cars. Our church destination had a chapel with blue stained glass windows and vaulted wooden ceilings.
We, however, moved into the upper level of the church that provided two bedrooms, two showers, two bathrooms, and a communal gathering room. The basement area had a large kitchen and dining area. Quickly, Lucy and Marcy organized the kitchen and delicious aromas filled the basement. Each day a gourmet meal greeted the hungry workers. The coffee was so delicious that we could have put Starbucks out of business. All the FHPC members helped to keep the kitchen and eating areas clean and functional.
After two days the women's bedroom of 8 bunk beds looked like a refugee camp. Towels, shoes, clothes, and hammers were an organized chaos that looked homey and welcoming. On Monday the groups divided so that we could work at two sites. One group went to complete a red metal roof of a lovely woman's home. The second group arrived at the home of a grandmother and five grandchildren.
Each evening we sang as Jim and Bradley played on the guitar. A bible selection was read and discussion followed. Our blessings and bummers (a chance for each member of the mission team to share something difficult and something great!) finished the day. Many of the group played games while others climbed into their sleeping bags.
At the end of the week we had completed reinforcing a trailer's porch, two new porches, a red metal roof, and tarred the roof of a mobile home.
On the last day each of us cleaned our hosts church and packed for the return trip to Martinsville. It was a wonderful experience and we were all drawn together by the fellowship of helping others and feeling that we were truly serving Jesus as we did!
Written by Betsy Haskins
For me, this powerful trip is about connections: a far deeper connection with Christ; a new amazing connection with new Christ followers around the world; a powerful connection with all my travel mates; and a far deeper connection in understanding what it actually means to be a follower of Christ.
As I worshipped, shared experiences, shared powerful prayer with new friends from around the world, I found a deeper sense of true commitment to Christ and to doing the work of Christ in this world. When I heard the experiences of those who have given everything to follow Christ, humility and love swelled within me-for these wonderful people, for the dedicated work that they do, for my church and church family and the opportunities that we have here. I hope to never take any of these blessings for granted again.
The worship and prayer concerts were very important to me, again in making intense connections to our new friends. Singing, listening to God’s Holy word, hearing a powerful message and praying with people that I have never met before, gave me the strong sense of connection to All Christ’s Followers, both here and around this good world.
Looking into their eyes and praying as one, is something I will cherish in my heart. People who will not be swayed by persecution from government, their neighbors or anyone are heroes and heroines as we march together as one in Lifting High the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.