Quarterly Pastor Reports
Nolan Staples, worship ministries—I used to be so good at worrying. I would worry about all kinds of things: Am I capable of doing this school work? Am I going to fail this paper? Doesn’t that make me a failure? Or, If I lose this tennis match, people will realize I’m not as good as they think I am? to the more serious Where will I go to college? How will that decision affect my future? What am I going to do with my life? Am I good enough to make it as a musician? Am I good enough for people to love me? Am I even capable of loving myself?
Toward the end of high school God did some work in this area of my life. God spoke to me through the passage in Matthew 6 that in my NIV is titled “Do Not Worry” (makes it sound so simple…). Matthew 6:25-27 says, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”
I was stressing myself out about where I would go to college, and I spent time reading and praying through this passage with God. I slowly began to let go of my sense that these big life decisions were all on me and that I had the potential to really mess up my life (as if I could make a decision that would cause me to be distant from God or not as loved and cared for by God). I began to find peace and comfort in the realization that my worrying wasn’t actually helping my situation at all; I was, in fact, losing hours of my life by worrying. I released my worries to God and did my best to trust and listen to and follow God’s guiding.
In the years since, I’ve found it so much easier to reflect back on these big life transitions and personal growth and see how God was in control. I can easily look back now and see how God was molding me, which has helped me to build trust for the present and the future. God has been faithful to guide me in the past (even if I’ve freaked out about it and not understood how God was working), so I can rest in knowing that God will continue to be faithful. No need to worry—God is taking special care of each one of us individually, and God is caring for us as a community.
Gregg Koskela, lead pastor—Steve Fawver and I lived with two other friends my junior year at George Fox, and the four of us tried memorizing verses together. One became cemented in my heart and mind and has stayed with me to this day, 2 Corinthians 4:16-18:
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (NIV)
Two years later Elaine and I were married and lonely in Southern California, missing community and struggling through her first job and my grad school. I clung to these words, as I have many times since, trusting God to renew and transform me through the struggles!
Cindy Johnson, senior ministries — When we were asked to write about a verse from the Bible that was and is important to us during a difficult time in our life, my mind went back 18 years ago when my husband, John, fell ill and was close to death. I depended on others around me to carry me through those days, and they would share scriptures they claimed for John and me. I distinctly remember the doctor coming out of the emergency room and telling me he did not know if John would make it, I prayed “Lord I do not want to pray this but I know I have to—your will be done in John’s life.” Of course this was hard to do because his will is not always our will, my will is not his will (Luke 22:4). I did not know what God’s will was for John, for me, or for our boys, Jamie and Mark. I prayed as I know others did. I held fast to knowing the Lord was in control, I was not.
Through John’s hospital stay, nurses who helped him in the ICU said, “ I am not a religious person, but I feel the prayers when I work on him.” Or “Mr. Johnson, I want you to know that I am praying for you and so is my small group.” Many caregivers held him up in prayer. Proverbs 15:29: “He hears the prayers of the righteous.” James 5:16: “The prayers of the righteous are powerful.”
As I drove home from the hospital each night, I played Sherry and Mauri Macy’s CD, repeating the song “Rest”—Rest, the Lord is near; refuse to fear, enjoy his love…There is no need for needless worry; with such a Savior you have no cause to ever doubt his perfect word still reassures in any trial (Matthew 11:28).
That song, the prayers from all around the world, friends, and family, kept me upright, along with giving the Lord control, and having faith knowing that John was in his care. I learned that as Psalm 18:1-2 says “I love you Lord, you are my strength and shield, my rock in whom I take refuge.”
Eric Muhr, youth ministries — Sometime today, Barclay Press will be announcing its new publisher. And it’s me.
The transition—nearly a year in the making—started last January when Dan announced his retirement in a letter to the board. In the intervening months, I’ve worked alongside Dan and other staff to gain an understanding of what Barclay Press is, what it does, and how it might move into the future with purpose.
But I’m not going anywhere.
I’ll be staying on at Newberg Friends, reducing my hours with youth ministries to 3/4 time while taking on a part-time role at Barclay Press.
To make up the difference at NFC, we plan to add a quarter-time youth ministries coordinator and to keep both of our youth ministry interns. Taylor Swan started working with middle school youth in June. Lindy Booth, a Christian ministries major at George Fox, started working with high school youth in September. These changes, approved by the NFC elders earlier this month, allow us to continue growing youth ministry programing without affecting the budget.
In the next week or two, I’ll be looking for help in finalizing a job description, posting a position, and discerning who God has been preparing (and prompting) to join the team of parents, volunteers, interns, and others who are already doing the work of caring for, nurturing, and challenging our youth.
This feels good.
I’ve been at Newberg for nearly six years now, and this transition—like our recent move from the Youth House to the Friends Center—feels like an important opportunity to consider why we do what we do and how we might do it better. Together.
Elizabeth Sherwood, administrative pastor — There was a season in my life when I equated having the perfect looking life with Christian “success.” I spent a lot of energy on my exterior life. When I encountered struggles, I found myself hiding my challenges and not living authentically. After experiencing emptiness from my own self-effort, I received this encouragement found in the psalms.
“You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.” Psalm 51:16-17 (TNIV)
The Lord never turns away from a humble person—a simple truth I return to time and time again. How amazing to follow a God who remembers we are but dust and who desires that we lay down our own efforts for perfection and rely on the Spirit’s work within us.
In my role as administrative pastor there are times I want things to be “perfect”—for projects to come in on budget and on time, for meetings to run smoothly, for visions of ministry to fall nicely into place without conflict or hurdles. It is helpful to be reminded that God works in and through us as we live in humility, relying on the Lord’s sovereign perfection alone.
Michelle Akins, children and family ministries— This month we are using a scripture passage or particularly meaningful verse to be the springboard for our pastoral reports. Isaiah 38:15-19 is mine. It begins with these wise words, “But what can I say?” There are times when words don’t seem to capture or contain enough emotion to convey what our heart feels. This passage has been meaningful to me since 2003. That year I was facing utter destruction of every relationship that was important to me. I had let selfishness control my life instead of turning to God. Gratefully, God wasn’t letting go of me. As I sat weeping one day, highlighting the words I now cherish in Isaiah, my two-year-old sat beside me and grabbed the pen. She wanted to “highlight” too. I learned so much that year…and continue to see how God can use and redeem the anguish of our soul. I found in those words of Isaiah 38, God’s desire to heal and give us life. I remember looking at my baby girl, aching to be a mother, wife, friend, and daughter that had integrity and would be able to wisely speak of God’s faithfulness. In those moments I had no idea where God would lead me. Some days I saw Light and others I felt alone and covered by darkness.
Now 12 years later, there are times I sit next to her and wonder how in the world God did this work in me and in our family. I’m grateful beyond words. God has restored me to health, has taught me about forgiveness, and I celebrate by singing loudly without shame in praise to Jesus for the wonderful gift of true life. The people of Newberg Friends Church were and remain a community of deep healing and Spirit-filled hope. If I have a purpose as a pastor, perhaps it boils down to doing whatever I can to offer that blessing to others. May I persevere to walk alongside you in humility and grace, and together may we tell our children about God’s faithfulness.
Steve Fawver, spiritual health and care ministries
Do you ever wonder what people say about you when you are not around? Is it true? Is it kind? Is it honest? Does it represent the core of who you really are? Not that it is really in our control, but we might wonder what people say at times. From my college years until now I have always been intrigued by the chatter of the rulers and teachers of the law in regard to Peter and John after they drug the two out of jail and heard their testimony of healing the lame man. Acts 4:13 offers us an insight, “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” Reading this one day, as I was just beginning as the youth pastor here at NFC, these words leapt off the page and touched a longing within my soul. They “took note that these men had been with Jesus!” That is what I want. I want to be someone who spends time with Jesus and lets Jesus shape me from the inside out. Not just a follower of the Jesus who was here, but also a daily follower of Jesus who is real and present today.
Something about Peter and John caused the Jewish leaders to grab their iPad, mark in their journal, or send a postcard home that said, “Something is going on here that is bigger than these two men….” We say Jesus is with us all the time and yet there is something about being intentional and attentive to Jesus so that when we are not around others can say, “these folks have been with Jesus!” May this be true of each one of us, as we become known as Jesus people—loving, giving, sharing, speaking, and living daily the life of Jesus so that others can make note of it as well.