Behind the Scenes

We Did a Double-Take

It arrived in an envelope.

We always wonder what Jesus will do in our church during the week that will turn into a blog post. And, being such an incredible and creative God, He usually surprises us. This week, however, "surprise" doesn't even begin to describe how we felt. We were completely dumbfounded. 

Getting checks in the mail isn't all that unusual.

We always deeply appreciate those who mail in their tithe, contributing to the ministry taking place here at Calvary. In the case of those who continue to give through the mail or online even when they can't make it to church on Sunday, we want you to know how much you bless us.

So getting checks in the mail doesn't usually shock us. But never in the history of this church has a check arrived from a penitentiary.

In case you didn't know...

Prisoners usually make 12-14 cents an hour. They can spend this money on items they need which the prison doesn't supply. (Things like deodorant, toothpaste, or shaving cream.) Sometimes, if the inmates work very hard, they might have a little money left to buy something to supplement the often inedible food. Ramen Noodles become a delicacy.

You can imagine how long it takes to earn enough money to buy anything at the 12-14 cent/hour rate.

One prisoner has been receiving sermon transcripts and a hand-written, personal note from Pastor Lee each week.

This inmate has developed a ministry behind bars of sharing Pastor's sermon with others who are incarcerated. The communication is minimal, but from what we can tell, God is doing great things in that prison. 

You can imagine the tears in our eyes when we opened his letter yesterday.

This prisoner wrote a note of heartfelt thanks to Pastor Lee for the transcripts. There was also a check enclosed for $25. That gift represents about 178 hours of work at 14 cents an hour. 

What else can we say? We're humbled today, Calvary. So it's with a lump in our throats that we share this story with you. Perhaps you'll remember this man in prayer. We can't reveal his name for obvious reasons, but God sure knows who he is. We pray that his story will inspire us all to love more, give more, and share Jesus more this Christmas season... and throughout the year to come.


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When Little Turns Out to be Much

Sometimes you have to make a solid plan to break out of your normal routine. When you're typically organized, this could mean planning to be... well, unplanned.

That's what happened last Wednesday night at Youth Group. Now, conventional wisdom says you cancel events like youth group the night before Thanksgiving. However, despite busyness and holiday travels, our youth staff decided to stick it out and hold youth group anyway. 

Twenty students showed up.

It would be easy to be disappointed with a turnout like that. After all, when you usually run a couple hundred on Wednesday nights, and one night you just have 20, you might be tempted to shrug your shoulders, cut your losses, and get home to make some pies. 

But isn't it just like God to take an opportunity like that to shine?!

If you were at church Sunday morning, you were blessed by Josh Whitelock filling in to lead worship. Josh is a second year student at the Atlanta Leadership College in Atlanta, Georgia. When we asked Josh how long he attended Calvary prior to going off to college, he responded, "Since I've been alive." Home for Thanksgiving, Josh was kind enough to slide into youth group last Wednesday night to help lead the evening. He had a feeling that God was up to something unique. 

Josh deliberately left things a bit open-ended.

This wasn't a failure to plan. Josh pulled the leaders together and told them he was loosely planned for the evening, but he was going to let the Spirit really lead. There would be opportunities for back-and-forth with the students, and Josh wanted the leaders to be sensitive to times when they may need to pull up next to a student to just talk to them. 

Communion that night required preparation.

In a dimly lit room, Josh corralled the kids into a circle and unplugged his acoustic guitar. With a djembe (acoustic drum) and guitar, the group alternated between a couple of songs and a little bit of teaching. The students asked questions and contributed to the discussion. This culminated with preparation to take communion. 

"I didn’t want to have communion and not have the opportunity for someone who didn’t know Christ to come to know him."

That statement summed up Josh's heart and mind. He had noticed that in this group of 20 kids, he barely knew any of them (from when he helped lead this past summer). That meant they were probably carrying over from after school at the Student Center. And Josh knew this pointed to a good chance that they didn't know Jesus as their Savior. 

After explaining the symbolism of communion and why it was such an incredible picture of what Christ did for us on the cross, Josh asked the kids to bow their heads and raise their hands if they wanted to accept Jesus as their Savior. Exactly 1/5 of the group immediately raised their hands. Then those four kids prayed to receive Christ. 

The group was so excited about Jesus when they were done, they burst into spontaneous song.

These students improvised a melody and began singing, "I will sing, sing, sing and I will shout, shout, shout because your love has won. Hallelujah!"

Not only are we ecstatic about our new student-siblings-in-Christ, but we're reminded of something often forgotten in our culture: God works just as well in small numbers as He does in large crowds. 

Please pray for the students who accepted the Lord a week ago. And may God bless YOUR interaction in small numbers this week!

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