This series is intended to be a brief sketch of my time in Odessa, Texas.
As we wrapped up the Spring of 2011, we were in for new steps of faith with Grace Point and our membership. These new steps of faith would send many of our members on some type of service trip.
Channon and Elizabeth joined the team from Houston First Church of God on a trip to Haiti. Their work including a building project and assisting in a medical clinic.
About 25 GPers ranging in age from 7 to 82 began serving with a local homeless ministry team. This team would spend Sunday mornings preparing lunches for 60 people once a month through December.
Some of you may be wondering how we could send a team on Sunday mornings. This was possible because we had changed our worship gathering time from Sunday morning to Saturday night. We made this change for a couple of key reasons. First, we were committed to reaching people not going to church and we thought maybe a reason people didn’t attend church was because of other obligations on Sunday morning. Secondly, we had been unable to find a worship leader for several months and meeting on Saturday nights would allow us to utilize some of our friends in the community who were worship leaders at other churches.
The Saturday night worship gatherings was clearly announced as an experiment. We ran the program through the summer. By late July we had come to see that it was really hard to change your Saturday routines. So, we in August we announced we were going back to Sundays after Labor Day Weekend. The amazing thing, during that season of experimenting, we didn’t lose a single family. Sure, many were not as faithful in attendance as they could have been, but everyone of them stuck through the season and returned with us in the fall!
While we were still in the midst of our Saturday night services, Christy went on a trip to Asia! Working with Project Partner, she was a part of an English Teaching Team. The more than two weeks away proved to be extremely challenging for her. Some of the challenge was physical, some emotional, and some spiritual.
The physical challenge was a result of a car accident we had been in about a week before she was to leave. We were returning from a meeting of Church Planters in Austin, when a pick up truck carrying a 20′ flatbed trailer, rear ended us. At first we didn’t think the accident was that major. We couldn’t see any significant damage to the vehicle and none of us had any visible bumps or bruises. The next day, Christy began to feel the pain. The accident had jarred her body and created significant back pain. In an attempt to relieve the issue, she was prescribed a steroid pack that she reacted badly to and then we had serious doubts as to whether or not she would be going on the trip.
As I said, she did end up going, but as she was flying to Hong Kong, she nearly passed out on her flight. She had the unnerving and movie like experience of hearing, “If there is a doctor on the plane, please press your call button.” She knew that was for her. For the first few days of her trip she could barely participate. After receiving an acupuncture treatment, she was in much better condition for the remainder of her journey.
The physical pain was intensified by the emotional separation. This was Christy’s longest trip away from the kids! She was also traveling with a group that she barely knew and she struggled because she thought she was a burden to the rest of the team. When the trip was over, and she stepped through the secure area at the airport in Midland, she collapsed into the arms of her babies with tears flowing.
Christy’s spiritual challenge was trusting that God could care for her and her family when they were separated by half the globe.
About a month before Christy left, her grandmother, Teena, went into the hospital and the doctors had told the family she was in her last days. After moving Teena to the Hospice House, family members in Texas and Arkansas came out to be with Teena in her final days. After more than two weeks at Hospice, Teena rebounded and was transferred to a long term care facility.
The summer was filled with emotion.
While Christy was away, the GP team served the homeless and also held our final backpack giveaway. This time, instead of hosting a special service asking families to come to us, we chose to set up a booth during registration at Jordan Elementary. We chose to set up at Jordan because this was the community we were directly trying to minister to. Our team sat there each day and offered backpacks to any and all who needed or wanted them. Left over packs were given to the school district’s student assistance and support team to be distributed as needed.
In October, I went to Berlin, Germany, with three others from GP and a team of pastors from the Texas General Assembly of the Church of God. The trip was an educational trip as we learned from missionaries about the work they were doing to help reach residents of this international post-Christian city.
When I returned, we had our first baby boom at Grace Point. We had four babies arrive! So we held a baby dedication for the families.
As Halloween approached, I couldn’t let the previous year’s trick or treating success go without begin challenged. So, once again I brought out the video projector and this time I connected our Wii Game System. We had fallen in love with the Michael Jackson Dance Experience as a family so we shared the game with our neighbors and trick or treaters. Using computer speakers and the video projector shining onto the garage door, we danced to Thriller throughout the trick or treating. At different points there were 20+ kids and adults dancing on our driveway!
In December, I baptized Andrew. He is a bit of a ham and highly expressive. So, when the water turned out to be hotter than expected, he practically climbed up my shoulder like a cat when I went to submerge him. It was truly a moment you had to see.
We made sure the water was warm that day because we had already seen our share of snow that December. But the desert cools and heats quickly!
After a nice winter, we picked up the paint rollers to help with some spring cleaning at the local YMCA daycare. A team of more than a dozen GPers came out to repaint all the classrooms of the center. It was a lot of work, but a lot of fun too.
Shortly after the work day, Christy’s sister’s family was able to come to Odessa. The wind blew them all the way in from Michigan.
Easter 2012, was once again a highlight for the GP family. We celebrated the day with egg hunts and baptisms. We baptized three that day.
Closing out our 10th year in Odessa, some friends gave us a new dog. You may have seen pics of Dee Dee in some of the previous posts. She probably more than the rest of us was impacted the most by the arrival of Theo! I will say, I’m not sure he would have survived house training if he weren’t so cute.
As we prepared for the summer of 2012, we were making a bid on the dream property and I had an adventure to Denver awaiting as well as an unexpected birthday surprise!