This semester has been going super well! We have finally hit our stride doing ministry during a global pandemic, and are seeing some great results and relationships form because of that. One highlight of this semester came at the end of February when we had our Women's and Men's Retreats. Our Women's Retreat theme was "Take Aim" where we talked about the what it means to truly obey God as well as the reward that can come from that obedience. I was one of the speakers for our retreat and I focused my talk on what it practically looks like to obey God and what it truly means to say "Hineni" or "Here I am" and to let God use you in whatever way He sees fit. This was my first time doing a talk like this, and though I was very nervous I feel like God used my talk to reach the women at our retreat. It was also the first time in about a year that we were able to get a large group of girls together and it was so refreshing. One of the greatest pains we have felt in at H2O during the Covid pandemic is the loss of a greater sense of community. Back when life was "normal" we had much more success in fostering a healthy community between our different Life Groups, but that has been lacking this year. So to be able to find a venue where we could host a larger group really helped spark some new friendships and allow the women who went to engage with each other in a way we had been missing. We had a lot of fun and got to meet so many new girls from different Life Groups. One of the great strengths I have always seen here in H2O is our commitment to growing a connected and caring community of believers, and I can say with certainty that our women's retreat helped to further that goal a great deal.
I cannot, however, speak on how the Man Day went so I am going to lean on the word of my husband to describe our men's retreat. "One of the great joys of my life has been getting to connect with and mentor other Christian men, and our men's retreat has always been a great part of that mission. This year we spent a day connecting with each other, worshipping, having productive discussions in breakout groups, and hearing a message from H2O BG pastor Matt Pardi. One of the reasons I so greatly enjoy event's like our men's retreat is because of how many men I have known (including myself) who often feel so isolated. Sometimes we feel like we lack people we feel we can trust to share the more vulnerable parts of ourselves, other times we feel as though no one thinks, acts, or sins like us. Having felt and known this personally, I know how this not only drives me away from others, but from our God as well. This mentality causes us to isolate, to hide ourselves from friends and family. This was one of the themes Matt Pardi talked about in his message focused on becoming rooted more deeply in the Lord. He talked about how there was a time in his life where he felt he was "uniquely broken" and this led to him feeling hopeless, believing no one could help him. It wasn't until he began to open up to others that he learned we all feel that we are "uniquely broken" and we are not alone in our struggles, and most importantly that there is hope in the Lord for transformation and restoration. This message sparked a great movement within the men of our church to share their struggles with each other, and continued to push the men of H2O closer to our God."
I have recently began dedicating more of my time to helping the community around UC's campus here in Cincinnati. One way I do this is by volunteering with a ministry down town called the Wesley Chapel Ministry Center. It is a ministry that focuses on kids from Pre-K-12th grade by offering an after school program for them. I help with the 3rd-6th graders and when they are with us we help them with their homework, engage in academic activities, teach them about Jesus, do enrichment activities with, and eat a hearty snack. Many of Cincinnati's public school students are far behind the national average, and struggle to learn in school and succeed afterwards and WCMC helps them to learn and succeed.
In the picture below you can see me towards the back helping one of the girls who comes. We are working on her times tables with flash cards. She struggled a bit at first but she started to get better after I taught her some helpful tricks.
As someone who struggled with school it's been cool to come along side some of these students to help and encourage them. I have loved getting to know these students and the other staff and volunteers. I go every Tuesday from 2-5 and it's something I look forward to every week. I love getting to see these students not only grow in school but also in their knowledge of the Word of God. It's been so fun and enriching being involved in this ministry this year.
Above is a picture of Matt and Jack, two of our TAP students, just goofing off and having a fun time at Life Group. Our life group has continued to see success, as the students who regularly attend develop a greater understanding and appreciation for God's Word.
A little more personal...
Last year I opened up a little bit more about my physical health issues. It is still something that I'm struggling with. I have seen several doctors at this point, and they have given me lots of new medications but it doesn't seem to be helping as much as they or myself would like it to be. It can often be difficult and discouraging to deal with. My friends and family, especially my husband Ben, do and amazing job at loving and supporting me but it often still feels like a burden I carry on my own. It's not something people can really understand or really even see since it is an invisible illness. Due to it being an invisible illness it can often make me feel like I'm crazy and that people don't really believe the pain and suffering I am in. It seems that every year it gets worse and worse even though I'm trying to be healthier which makes it hard to want to put in the effort to have a healthy lifestyle. Thankfully I am rooted in my God and I know he loves and cares for me even through the pain. I know that even if He never heals me He is still good and He is still sovereign, but that doesn't mean we can't pray for healing!
That God would heal me of all my physical afflictions, but if He chooses not that the doctors would figure out exactly what is wrong and how to treat it well.
That H2O and other churches would find ways to engage believers and unbelievers alike during this pandemic.
That the friendships made during our retreats would help those involved to grow closer to God.