A Spectacular Outreach

In the most wonderful week of the year, 30,000 people came onto Champion Forest’s campus to watch the magnificent Christmas Spectacular. They were greeted by the newly created Lawn area where they could enjoy food trucks, comfortable seating, and pictures in front of a 30 foot tree. In addition, staff from every Champion Forest campus was represented in a whole church push for a successful show experience. 

Christmas Spectacular was not just an opportunity for people to come and receive but it also was an event to give as well. This was represented through the donation carts by each entrance for CF’s Community Ministry Center (CMC). Guests of the show were asked to bring canned goods that we could bless our neighbors in need with over the holiday season. Our CMC ministry is one that runs year-long in the multipurpose building in order to help feed families in need. Hundreds of salvation occur each year in the CMC when neighbors come looking for food and find the Bread of Life as well. Through the giving during the Christmas Spectacular, over 40 grocery carts were filled with donations that will help keep the CMC running. 

However, the outreach of Christmas Spectacular goes beyond the physical cans of food that will be given out. As one of the greeters noted, many of his friends that he has invited to church before showed up to one of the shows. It was his joy to hold the door for these new guests and to see generations of families that have made the show a holiday tradition. While some people are not willing to sit in a sanctuary on a Sunday morning and hear a sermon, they are willing to come to a jaw dropping show on a Friday night. And drop jaws it did! Christmas Spectacular is one of the greatest highlights of CF’s mission to do all things with excellence. The church invests time, talents, and treasures into outreaches like Christmas Spectacular because it draws in a crowd we can never get otherwise, bonds members of the church together, and most importantly glorifies God. 

Amidst the wonder and awe of the bright lights, acrobatics, live animals, flying actors, and shiny costumes was a greater act happening in the hearts of many audience members. Each show was filled with joy and levity but concluded with the real story of Jesus. Christmas Spectacular is not just put on as a family celebration for the birth of our Savior, it is put on as a proclamation to our neighbors that Jesus is King! 

The hours, days, and months of prior prep work is all done in the name of letting people know just who our God is. He is the King of King and the Lord of Lords. When Jesus came, He fulfilled over 400 prophecies! Jesus was the one they had been waiting for with bated breath. The crowd experiences this anticipation in a microcosm sense when the lights in the auditorium dim, the orchestra plucks their first string, and the stage begins to come to life with a litany of characters. What will happen? What will come next? Where is this all leading up to? The waiting to see where God is in the story in the show is a reflection of what it was like for the Jewish people looking for Christ. When they found Him, it was not as they expected, but He was more spectacular than they ever could have imagined. The reality of Christ became authentic for over 350 people who responded for the first time to the call of Salvation! In addition, thousands heard a gospel presentation that the Lord can continue to use to move in their life. Christmas Spectacular was a fantastic and remarkable week of the blessings of Christ on display for all to see.

Dinner of the Brave

A Night of Honor

In 2021 when American forces were pulled from Iraq and Afghanistan, there was a special group of people who were suddenly forced to leave their homeland. These locals had worked in cooperation with the U.S. military and were employed by them. Doing their job put them as a target in the Taliban’s eyes. These men were brave in their assistance to our troops, often offering translation services to help aid the fight against terrorism. When the troops were withdrawn, these men were granted emergency Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs). 

 In an average year, 1,500 SIVs are issued. However, after the withdrawal in 2021, an exception to that number had to be made and a record 8,000 SIVs were given. This means that now, there are more than ever, refugee heroes living in the states today who need our support as they transition to their new lives. 

This past November the missions department was able to offer support to this spectacular group of men. CF Missions had the joy of financially sponsoring an event with one of our local refugee ministry partners. This event was also supported by a group of men from CF who went down and served. 

This event was a night to honor the Special Immigrant Visa holders that have been placed in Houston. Throughout the night, they were able to enjoy a meal, hear from a speaker, and be honored for their courageous work. It was a night to highlight that these men are heroes and show our appreciation for all that they have done. 

Moving forward, CF can continue to support these men by praying for them. An important thing to pray about is the reunification of their families. Their quick evacuation for their safety meant that many of them had to leave behind their loved-ones. Many of these men are in Houston, waiting for their wife and children to join them. Some of their families are still in their homeland while others are awaiting resettlement in a refugee camp. 

The other big prayer concern is for the salvation of these men. Coming from the Middle East, this is the first time they will be living in a predominantly Christian society. Pray that Christians in Houston show them the love of Christ. Pray that they have a positive impression of the local church. And pray that they will personally come to know Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. 

It is a unique day and age in the United States where the world is coming to us. May we treat them with love and respect. May we remember that it is Christ like to welcome in the stranger. And may we realize that the harvest of the nations is in our backyard.

If you would like to do more to get involved with the local refugee population in Houston, please email missions@cfbc.org to find out how. 

Feast of the Nations

An International Friendship Day of Fellowship

Amongst mashed potatoes, buttered rolls, and green beans, hundreds of students from International Friendship got to experience the American tradition of Thanksgiving in the Family Life Center. International Friendship is a group that teaches English as a second language to adults through the use of Scripture. They are under the oversight of the Missions department and led faithfully by Tom and Sarah Riley. The Champion Forest chapter of International Friendship sees over 200 students every Thursday for free classes. Within the student body, over 30 different countries are represented. 

The work of International Friendship is so important because for many students, English classes are one of the first places that they go to when they arrive in the States. Knowing this fact, International Friendship is strategically placed at local churches. Through the work of IF, the church is able to meet a practical need for language acquisition. More importantly, through hosting these classes, they are able to leave a good impression about the local church on the student’s lives. For some students, they have come from countries where Christianity was not a major religion. Experiencing the church in a positive light is the first step towards getting the gospel to them. 

While the great commission commands everyone to go and tell the good news to all nations, tongues, and tribes, sometimes the church is blessed with the people coming to them. This is the case at International Friendship. People may come looking for English, but they will leave with experiencing the love of Christ from one of His children. For some, this is the first time in their life they have heard about Jesus and who He really is. 

The beauty of the Thanksgiving feast was not due to the nicely decorated tables or the generously piled plates. The beauty of this Thanksgiving meal was the fact that it was a glimpse, a foreshadow, into what the Lord promises will one day happen. One day, every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess, that Jesus is Lord. Every nation will be represented and the beautiful mosaic of people that God has created will feast together in thanks and praise for who He is. To enjoy this Thanksgiving meal, was to peek into the windows of heaven and see that one day, we will be a people unified not by our culture, language, politics, or enjoyment of the same food, but we will be unified by our Creator. At that one day promised feast, we will be living rightly: as one in praise of our Lord and Savior. That is the beauty of the gospel, there is space for everyone at the Lord’s table.  

Block Party Success

Running into closed doors in your neighborhood? Open your driveway.

The harsh realities of 2020 brought to the surface the great need of community. The absence of others for a year of hardship helped many people realize that they cannot do life alone. We are reminded by the reality of the Trinity always existing in the community that we, as a people made in the image of God, need the presence of others. 

This fact was heavy on church member’s Gary and Joyce Aylor’s hearts. As restrictions began to ease up, Joyce was searching for a way to connect with her neighbors once again. In praying through this, the Lord brought to her attention that the first week of October has national “Night Out”. This was the perfect way to engage her neighbors and bring them together. 

She got to work and created flyers inviting those on her street to an hour-long event held in her driveway where people could come and finally connect with those they’d been isolating right next to during COVID times. 

It was a simple evening where most neighbors stopped by and said hello to those on their street. 

Encouraged by the turn out last year, Joyce and Gary asked their neighbors if it was something they’d like to try again. There was a large “Yes please!” from everyone. Another night of connection was on the books. As Joyce got to work putting the evening together, she received word from others of ways they’d like to help. A neighbor girl assisted in delivering the flier invites to everyone on the block. Many of the ladies brought snacks to share with everyone. Another neighbor provided their cornhole game. Kids brought balls to play with and toss around while their parents talked. Two new sets of neighbors were greeted onto the block. 

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It is always special when we can see the Holy Spirit moving in His people. It is clear that the Aylors were sensitive to the needs of those around them and what the Spirit was asking them to do about those needs. It is awesome when, as a body of believers, we see the Lord call the masses to what He has already called the few to do. In this month’s series B.L.E.S.S., Pastor Jarrett has given us the charge to go out and be the neighbors to initiate community.

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 People are desperate for the joy of community and the hope of the gospel. You can be the answer to their need. 

If you are wanting to throw a block party like the Aylors, the missions department has created neighborhood block party kits to help you get started. Pick yours up for free after service this Sunday in the Worship lobby. 

Launch Sunday and a Surprise

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations from Texas, to Michigan, to Cameroon. 

The call to go is one that has been given to all Christians from Jesus Himself. This invitation to be a part of what the Lord is doing, is the chance to be involved in a story bigger than oneself. When participating in the story of God, you may never know what miraculous report is around the corner. CF Connect partner David Livingston saw the reality of God’s grand story play out on the launch day of his church plant, Treeline Church.

Treeline Church is located in Ann Arbor, Michigan in the backyard of the University of Michigan. This church is strategically partnered with The Salt Company, a parachurch group which targets college towns for new church plants in order to reach the lost young adults of the area. For many, college is their first time away from home and they are trying to figure out life in a new way. During this pivotal time, many students question faith and wrestle with what they will choose to believe. That is why it is crucial to have active local churches with ministries that fit the needs of young adults planted in college towns. 

While reaching the thousands of lost students who walk the halls of the University of Michigan is a massive goal of Treeline Church, Pastor David saw the beauty of God’s plan unfold differently than expected. While many young adults did attend launch Sunday, one person stood out in the crowd. Her name is Judith. She, like the students, was new to the area and finding her place in Michigan. However, her adjustment was even larger as she, her husband, and two kids had just arrived from Cameroon, Africa. By the grace of God, she ended up on the website of Treeline Church and decided to check it out for herself. 

While listening to the sermon, the Holy Spirit opened the eyes of her heart and revealed to her the gift of salvation. By the end of the message, Judith had found what her heart had always been looking for, a Savior. She accepted Christ and then full of joy, explained to Pastor David how she had never understood what to do with her sins. But for the first time during the message, the Scriptures Pastor David had used, finally outlined the beauty of the gospel for her. She explained this epiphany by saying “Jesus actually takes my sin away. I am totally Forgiven!”

Judith is just one example of the beauty of the gospel taking hold of a person’s heart through the work of Treeline Church. Through the CF Connect program, Champion Forest is able to support church planters doing the work of the ministry like Pastor David and his team. Your support to missions here at Champion Forest ensures that we can continue to launch more Christ-centered churches to fulfill the call to go and make disciples everywhere. 

God in the Bush

What do an old man, an escaped criminal, and a Champion Forest trip to Kenya all have in common? 

They saw the power of God in the bush.

In the Old Testament, the catalyst for the story of God’s people is in the covenant Yahweh makes to Abraham; an old, barren man with no one to leave his legacy to. God promises the impossible: that the people of Abraham would be as many as the stars in the sky. That his bloodline would not only continue but that there would be an eternal throne through his people group. The seed of this promise was born in Isaac. The true son of Abraham was the fulfillment of God’s covenant. 

Yet, in all this hope, God asks for the impossible again. Abraham is to sacrifice Isaac. Abraham is to give up his one and only son, the hope of a future people, who are to be God’s children. How can the life of many come, if there is the death of the promised one? 

Abraham sets off on the three-day journey with his son by his side. When they arrived at the mountain in Moriah, Abraham took the wood for the sacrifice and put it on Isaac’s back.  The agony Abraham must have felt as he watched his one and only son, with the wood he is to be sacrificed with on his back, march towards his death. 

Abraham prepares the place for the sacrifice. He binds his son in obedience to the Father. He raises his fist, knife in hand, in full faith that God would still be true to His promise. Just before he deals the deadly blow, God stops Him. Abraham sees a movement in the distance. There in the thick bushes, God’s provision is wriggling. A ram, caught by the horns, is a symbol that God’s faithfulness can be found in unlikely places at unlikely timing. 

Abraham, an old man, found God faithful in the bush.

A thousand years after God’s covenant with Abraham, the promised nation of Israel is living in slavery in Egypt. A people shackled in hard labor and destitute in poverty. Moses, a murderer who once lived in the palace of Pharoah, is off in a desolate desert tending to sheep. In the middle of the ordinary, the extraordinary explodes on the scene: a bush on fire that is not burning up. In that bush, Moses finds the manifest presence of God who reveals to him a name to be called by, Yahweh. 

Yahweh, or I AM, is the first name that God reveals to His children. There in that fiery bush was the intimate and close God of Israel. He did not stay far away. There it was again, God’s personal provision in a bush. God’s sign that He is in the business of saving His people. 

After that encounter with Yahweh, Moses would go on to lead the Israelites to freedom, escaping the bankrupt life of slavery under Pharoah. More miracles than a burning bush would occur, but it all started with an escaped criminal and God’s plan for rescue in the bush.

This past summer, a team of Champion Forest members, led by Missions Associate Lezlie Armour, headed into the country of Kenya. There they met with longtime partner International Treasure House Ministries. During their time there, they got to personally experience what it is like to see God’s faithfulness in the bush. They were part of a team that went out into the countryside, the barren bush, and helped rescue two little girls who were in danger of being sold. The sisters were five and seven years old. Little lives, both precious to God, are rescued in the bush by people of God. 

When we hear stories like this, we are reminded that the stories of the Old Testament echo into today. The God of rescue and provision of times past is still the same God on the throne now. When we commit our time to serve and spread the hope of Jesus to people of all nations, we get to join in the spiritual army of what God is already doing. We get the honor of participating in the character of God by being people of provision and rescue. 

While not everyone can go to Kenya, everyone can serve in the story of God. That may look like being a person of provision and giving financially to partners like International Treasure House Ministries. Money towards them makes a holistic rescue possible. It funds giving those little girls a home to live in with warm beds. It ensures that they will have meals to eat and teachers to educate them with a knowledge of God and life skills. To be a cheerful giver to the Kingdom of God is to imitate Christ. 

Others can serve by being people of rescue. They can sign up for the next Kenya trip or they can serve right here in Houston. Champion Forest is a proud partner with Freedom Church Alliance, a group empowering the churches and nonprofits of Houston to come together and fight against the human trafficking happening in our own city. When we serve and help rescue others out of hopeless situations, we are following in the call to be like Jesus. 

If you are interested in the next Kenya mission trip or serving locally, please email missions@cfbc.org