From Joel & Katy Kardell
My husband Joel was at the airport when the family first arrived in the United States. They were all very tired and shy. Thee was in a wheelchair, pale in color, and wearing a hat to cover her balding head. She had lost her hair from the chemotherapy she had received overseas. We weren’t sure what kind of medical cares she would need; but after seeing her, thought we might have to help the family prepare for the worst.
Her family was very protective of her, and never let her go anywhere without one of them accompanying her to help her with her crutches. After many doctor appointments, referrals, and repeated diagnostic tests the doctors determined that she did NOT have cancer but a benign tumor in her hip that was misdiagnosed overseas. Hope and healing were extended to the family and for the first time we saw them smile.
Thee’s older brother and I went with her the day of her surgery. Her brother almost passed out when they put the IV in and drew blood and had to step out of the ante-room. We waited over 8 very long hours for her surgery to end. Joel and Sine Htee (Thee’s brother) worked on a puzzle. At first, he was very frustrated and didn’t want to participate and just stared at the pieces and watched us. After watching for a while he started to try pieces, and as the hours passed he joined in and ended up completing the puzzle! He was SO proud of himself, and we were too!
Thee spent a few days in the ICU. We took her family to visit her, and she cried. She cried many times during her hospitalization because she missed her family. During this time, the family had been introduced to KCRC (a Karen church here in Omaha) and had accepted Christ into their lives and were going to be baptized. We prayed over her together knowing that God understands all tongues, such a beautiful moment.
After leaving the hospital, Thee had to spend a few weeks in a rehab facility learning to walk. Every day the family would ask when she would be able to walk without the crutches or the brace she had to wear after her hip replacement!?!!!? Each time, we would reassure them that it would happen with lots of therapy and patience. Thee now can walk independent of crutches!!!! Her gait isn’t perfect, and she can no longer go to therapy since she doesn’t qualify for Medicaid and can’t afford insurance, but she is always smiling and going places independently. She is now enrolled in ESL classes and is hanging out with friends all the time! Oh, and her hair has grown back a beautiful black with LOTS of curls!
- Katy Kardell
June 7th (Friday) through June 8th (Sunday) is Elkhorn Days. Elkhorn Days has been a tradition in Elkhorn for over 60 years. For 3 days every June, Elkhorn celebrates our growing community with many activities: Annual Art Show, Pancake Feed, Parade Down Main Street, Family Festival in the Park, Spectacular Fireworks Display, a talent show, and Car Show…to name a few. You can go to www.elkhorndays.com for more information on this awesome weekend.
Two years ago was the first time Relevant was part of Elkhorn Days. That year, we handed out free cold bottles of water during the “Family Festival in the Park” on Saturday afternoon. Unfortunately, we realized that there weren’t many families at all in the park that day for a number of reasons: there were more vendors selling items than fun activities for kids to do, and every activity was extremely expensive so families didn’t stick around. We believed this weekend should bring the community together, so we choose to do something about it.
After Elkhorn Days two years ago, we worked hard with the Elkhorn Days planning committee to recreate the “Family Festival in the Park.” We told them we would bring in more fun activities for kids (and volunteers to work them) in addition to the current vendors, and created a way to make all the activities available at one low price by purchasing wristbands, instead of paying for everything individually. Our efforts paid off. Last year was a huge success. There were more people at the “Family Festival in the Park” than ever before, and the families in our community were able to have a fun day together at an affordable rate. I was so proud of our church!
We love Elkhorn. We believe God has placed Relevant in this community. That is why we want are part of this awesome weekend. We want to be a small blessing for the people in our community who attend Elkhorn Days, which is why we are doing the same thing this year at Elkhorn Days for the “Family Festival in the Park.”
A few of us can’t pull this off. It will take ALL of us. We need ALL of Relevant to get behind this by committing to volunteer for one hour that day. Would you be willing to be one of those people? If you would like to be a part of this, please sign up as soon as possible at http://relevantcommunity.org/events.php.
Creating a better community together,
Yesterday was our Summer Transformation gathering. We do these gatherings 3 times a year to celebrate what we care most about…TRANSFORMATION. These are my absolute favorite Sundays of the year, because celebrating the work that only God can do never gets old!
One of the ways we celebrate transformation is through baptism. The following fourteen people were baptized on Sunday to publicly proclaim their faith in Jesus as the forgiver of their sins and leader of their lives:
Furthermore, we also shared the story about what God has been doing in/through Relevant Kids (ministry for kids birth through 5th grade). You can watch that story at http://vimeo.com/65486642.
It is a humbling thing to be a part of work that only God can do. I am grateful that God is choosing to do transforming work in people’s lives, in our church, and in our world through Relevant.
Last week we got an email from our contact in Burma. He is an American who is living in Thailand near the border of Burma. He has been working for years with the Karen people, both on the Thai side and in enemy territory within Burma. He is not a Christian missionary. He just can’t stand the injustice to the Karen people, and has chosen to do something about it. He is an extremely connected man, and we could not be doing the work we are doing there without him. It is a really long story how we got connected with this man, but we are blessed because of him.
This man is engaged to a Buddhist woman whom we met in November when we were in Thailand. In an email we got last week from him about some stuff we’re doing there with him, he wrote the following about what his fiancée recently told him…
“My fiancée just told me, for the second time, ‘I’m not a Christian, but if I was I would go to their (Relevant’s) church.’ You guys/gals are making quite a favorable impression… well done!”
This just reminded me that people see Jesus, when we act like Jesus. We have never tried to push Jesus onto this amazing Buddhist woman, she is just seeing Jesus in us as we are doing Kingdom work. Remember that today as you are at work, sitting in your classroom, taking a walk in your neighborhood, playing golf with your friends, etc.
Last year on our scouting trip to the Thai-Burma border, we met an amazing woman who almost single-handedly runs the Safe Haven Orphanage and Learning Center. After the trip, we decided we were going to focus a lot of our energy and investment “over there” into the Save Haven Orphanage.
The orphanage has over 100 Karen kids of all ages, and operates on a shoestring budget of about $500 U.S. dollars/year per child!
Some of the money needed to take care of the kids up to this point came through gifts they got through the year, but they have had to trust God in faith to provide for most of it. She often goes to the market to get rice for the kids, or takes them to the doctor when they’re sick, but literally hasn’t known where the money will come from to take care of what they need. It’s truly incredible the sacrifices she makes for these kids, and the love she has for them!
One of the ways we are helping them is financially. We have decided to make a monthly financial commitment to them. We recently wired our first monthly installment.
She was overjoyed! Here’s what she wrote to us (we cleaned up her English a little):
“I would love to thank you very much for you working hard for Safe Haven. I just checked my bank yesterday and the money already arrived. Because of the church and love of all the people, all the children have a future and have a beautiful life. Thank you very much for everything you are doing for the children.”
Isn’t that awesome?! It is so cool to see our desire to serve and empower the Karen people from Burma here, and around the world, come to life. Pray for this amazing woman and the children, and for wisdom and direction as we continue to seek God and work with our partners there to bless Safe Haven in Jesus’ name.
Pastor Ronnie and Pastor Andy
Today is Good Friday. For those of us who are Followers of Jesus, this day is “good” because we know what happens on Easter Sunday. But, what if you were there on that Friday almost 2000 years ago? You wouldn’t know what is going to happen on Sunday. All you see is what is happening today.
Below is the “Good Friday Story.” It encompasses everything the Gospels tell us in Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, and John 19. I challenge you to read through this story today; however, don’t just read it, but reflect on it. As you are reading, pay attention to anything that grabs your attention. Do you identify with one of the characters in the story? Which one? Why? What do you feel as you read this?
As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross. They came to a place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull). Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, he refused to drink it. When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots. The soldiers took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. “Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.” This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled which said, “They divided my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.” So this is what the soldiers did. And sitting down, they kept watch over him there. Above his head they placed the written charge against him: this is Jesus, the king of the Jews. Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.” Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.” Two robbers were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’ ” In the same way the robbers who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him. “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “”…My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.” Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.” And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, “IT IS FINISHED…Father, into your hands I commit my spirit,” he breathed his last and gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people. When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and praising God exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!” Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jews did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken,” and, as another scripture says, “They will look on the one they have pierced.”
I would like to challenge you to do one final thing: Pray. Pray out of what you felt when you were reading. Do you feel a need to repent?…then pray that. Praise God?…then pray that. Heartache?…then pray based on that. Let what happened this Friday almost 2000 years ago penetrate your heart today.
Last week as I was spending time with God, He impressed something on me. What he impressed on me came out of my reading in 2 Kings 4:1-7.
Now the wife of one of the sons of the prophets cried to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that your servant feared the LORD, but the creditor has come to take my two children to be his slaves.” And Elisha said to her, “What shall I do for you? Tell me; what have you in the house?” And she said, “Your servant has nothing in the house except a jar of oil.” Then he said, “Go outside, borrow vessels from all your neighbors, empty vessels and not too few. Then go in and shut the door behind yourself and your sons and pour into all these vessels. And when one is full, set it aside.” So she went from him and shut the door behind herself and her sons. And as she poured they brought the vessels to her. When the vessels were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another vessel.” And he said to her, “There is not another.” Then the oil stopped flowing. She came and told the man of God, and he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts, and you and your sons can live on the rest.” (2 Kings 4:1-7 ESV)
Elisha tells the widow to get as many jars as she can, because Elisha knows God is going to fill those jars, and God does! He fills ALL the jars she retrieved. Once all the jars were full that she retrieved, the oil stopped flowing. What if she would have gotten more jars? Would God have kept filling them? It seems to read that way.
Here is what God impressed on my heart as I meditated on this: “God will provide to the capacity we have prepared to receive.”
We all want God’s blessings to flow. We all want God to do the transforming work only He can do. I believe He wants the same things, but we have to be prepared to receive it. He will provide to the capacity with which we can accept. He will give what we have prepared to receive.
So, have you prepared to receive? Are you being faithful with the small things God has put in front of you today? Are you persevering by making the right choices no matter how small it is, and no matter what happens? Are you focusing in on the areas you know need your focus: family, relationships, finances, rest?
Don’t stop preparing! Participate with God by doing the preparatory work only you can do, so that He can do the divine work only He can do!
We believe the nation that God has called us to engage in for the long term is Burma; specifically with the Karen people, which is one of the country’s largest ethnic groups. Last year we took our first scouting trip to Burma, and are starting to engage the Karen people “there.” However, with over 4,000 Karen refugees living in Omaha, we are able to engage them “here” without ever leaving our backyard. We work extremely hard to serve the Karen refugees every day in a number of ways; one of which is to sponsor new refugee families by assigning them a “Family Care Team” for their first year in Omaha. Over the course of 1 year, the Family Care Team furnishes their apartment, teaches them English, teaches them how to drive, helps them with legal paperwork, etc. We have sponsored three refugee families so far.
One of the families is a single mom with four kids. A Relevant Family Care Team started working with this family eight months ago. As we reflect on the past eight months I would like to celebrate some of the amazing accomplishments we’ve seen in this short time:
Over the next few months, the Relevant Family Care Team will begin the process of transitioning themselves out of a “job.” The primary goal of a Family Care Team is to help equip these families to be self-sufficient and flourish in our culture. The mom now has the skills, confidence, and support needed for this to happen. Even though our official sponsorship is ending, our friendship is not. Many people on the Family Care Team have become friends with the family, and will now continue an ongoing relationship with them like any other friendship.
I am so proud of the Relevant Family Care Team who has worked with this family, and the other families. We will be sponsoring another new family to Omaha later this year. If you are interested in our Nation Engagement Ministry, or possibly joining a Family Care Team in the future, please contact our Nation Engagement Pastor, Andy Williams: email@example.com
The topic this past Sunday as we continued “The Shape of a Soul” series was, Integrity. But, how would you describe integrity? Many would describe it as being flawless; however, you will never be flawless, so does that mean you can never be a person of integrity? Instead of being flawless, what if being a person of integrity meant being false-less?
A person of integrity is not without flaws, they just aren’t false. When you watch a person of integrity, you know exactly what is inside of them. A perfect example of integrity is a banana. Erwin McManus writes…
“Have you ever gone to the store to buy bananas? If you have, what you really did was buy banana peels. You never actually saw the meat of the banana; you just knew it was there. All you ever saw was the peel. Yet every time you skinned one, there was a banana inside. Is your response each time surprise? Is there a process of anticipation and delight as you choose a banana and slowly open it to see what you might find? No, you just take it for granted. You know exactly what’s going to be there.”
Jesus wants to transform us to be the same person all the way through; a person who looks more like Him all the way through…inside and out. So, here are some questions each of us must ask to join God in the transforming work he wants to do in our lives: If someone cut you open or peeled off the outer layer, what would they find? Would they be shocked? How is the inside different than the outside?
Once again, we are posting a “T-LIFE Guide” every week throughout this series on the Current Series page of the website. They are designed to help you grow deeper throughout the week, and coincide with what is being preached at the Sunday Gathering. The T-LIFE Guide for this week on Integrity can be found here: Download PDF
Every day I spend time reading and meditating on Scripture. Recently, I have been reading through the book of Proverbs. The other day I got to Proverbs 28:2, which says…
“When a land transgresses, it has many rulers, but with a man of understanding and knowledge, its stability will long continue.”
I have read this Proverb many times, but for some reason God stirred my heart when I read it the other day, so I spent some time meditating on it and praying through it. As I was praying, God reminded me of the vision He gave to us when we first launched Relevant Community Church: for Relevant to be a long-term spiritual pillar in Elkhorn. We don’t want to just be a church in Elkhorn. We are called to be a church FOR Elkhorn. We are called to do everything we can to help meet the needs in our city, influence our city, and help transform our city…for the long haul. As I continue to pray and reflect on this, a paraphrase of Proverbs 28:2 came to my mind…
“When a city turns from God, it has many churches in it. But when a church of understanding and knowledge is for the city, the city’s stability will long continue because it will turn back to God.”
God reminded me that 1 church can change the destiny of an entire city. Why can’t we be that church in Elkhorn? This is my prayer and heart for Relevant, and Elkhorn. I am praying hard that God leads us into this.