Kenya 2016 Mission Trip: Post #1

October 18, 2016

By J Hill

We’re here in Kenya, halfway around the world in a place that’s full of beauty, contradictions, and surprises. It’s a place that feels both totally foreign and completely familiar. Today was our first day at Watoto wa Ahadi rescue center. It’s difficult to explain how amazing the center really is.

img_3771Geoffrey Mochama, the rescue center’s program manager arrived to take us to the farm just after breakfast. When we first left Maua, the blacktop out of town is busy but otherwise a fairly normal blacktop road. About a kilometer down the way, the road turns to dirt. From there on the road is not simple. It takes a truck, preferably a four-wheel drive, and if it rains, the road becomes impassable. As you travel there you go through one township after another. Each township is alive with activity. People carry huge stalks of bananas on their backs. Motorcycles whiz by with 3 or 4 or 5 passengers. If they don’t have multiple passengers, they’re carrying lumber or multiple crates. People of all ages come out of every shop as pass. What seems like choruses of children wave with excitement. The road gets steeper and rockier and then all of a sudden evens out. You see the first fenced property in quite awhile and Geoffrey says, “this is it, we’re here.”

IMG_3776.JPGAfter entering the gate it’s immediately apparent that this is the beginning of something amazing. Six months ago, 34 street orphans moved onto this farm. Six months before that there really was no farm, at least not one in any organized, recognizable fashion.

Today as we walked the farm, there is a dining hall, a dormitory, a school building, and staff housing. There are crops being grown and chickens are being raised. As we get out and walk around, several of the kids are under the tree with their teacher making beaded necklaces. They’re comfortable and healthy and happy to see us and we are happy to see them. After lunch we had time to spend with the kids. We played soccer. I got to draw with a talented young man named Jacob. We just had time to get to know one another.

For sure there is work to be done. More building needs to happen. More programs need to be put in place. But it is absolutely clear that there is a safe place for 34 of the world’s most vulnerable kids. That there is a place where they know what happens to them makes difference to someone. Watoto wa Ahadi means Children of Promise and Watoto wa Ahadi rescue center is a place where God is working through so many people to put a part of creation back together.

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Peru Mission Trip Summer 2016 Day 5

June 16, 2016

By Brian Chambers

On our first mission trip to Peru our group was able to visit La Plaza de Armas, the beautiful area within Lima containing the Presidential Palace, Congress, and the Cathedral of Lima. Though we could walk around the cathedral’s impressive exterior, we were previously unable to enter.

PeruDay5.JPGHowever, this time around our small group was fortunate enough to be allowed to enter into this awe-inspiring building. Enormous sculptures of meticulously crafted wood and stone adorned several inlets within the main chamber of the cathedral, great care taken to perfect even the smallest aspects of the artwork. Our tour guide, Marta, took us into the crypt below the altar. Once in the crypt our music minister, Carey Cannon, lined up the youth choir and we proceeded to sing “Esto Les Digo”. The sound of the music echoed through the catacombs, enhancing our voices. Other visitors to the cathedral came down the narrow stairs leading to the crypt, some with cameras in hand, to listen. The entire experience was extremely moving and unforgettable!

Brian Chambers is beginning his Freshman Year at Texas A&M this Fall. He was active in band, but this week is helping in the Discovery (science, art, gardening) and Recreation Classes at OSA. He is the son of Mark and Jeannie, and the brother of Suzanne.


Peru Mission Trip Summer 2016 Day 3

June 14, 2016

By Isabella Baar-Hill

As a member of the music and dance team on the mission trip to Peru, I teach the kids songs and dances to perform for their parents and friends at the end of the week. Breaking through the language barrier, we learned specific Spanish words that are often used in teaching music and dance. During our second full day in Peru at OSA, we presented the children with the theme of Cultural Exchange; we worked from American & Texan perspectives so the kids got a taste of our culture. During dance, we played many rounds of musical chairs (a game I’ve quickly learned they LOVE). We only played English music because that’s what we know and brought with us. While others led the game, I played and stopped the music, watching the kids from the side lines. I began to notice that the kids were quietly singing and humming along to our English songs, words they couldn’t have known. I realized these kids were subconsciously, and joyfully learning our culture in ways we had not planned.PeruSummerBlogDay3During the music classes, Carey took time to teach and translate words we could use in common enabling us to bond with them in a unique way. I was reminded of how excited the kids were two years ago when I came when they would ask how to say things in English and I’d attempt to teach them. This was a new and eye opening experience because I was accustomed to being their student, struggling to learn Spanish. Their willingness to overcome our foreign language and pronunciations with attitudes of joy is a gift I will carry home with me. Their openness to a new culture despite the struggle is inspiring. Every moment I spend with these kids who show such eagerness to learn despite failure, makes me strive more and more to be like them.

Isabella Baar-Hill completed her Junior Year at Houston Christian High School. She is the daughter of J Hill and Hillevi Baar.


Peru Mission Trip Summer 2016 Day 2

June 14, 2016

By Drew Barkley

Day one of VBS. We’ve spent weeks preparing songs, dances, crafts, games, stories, etc. all for today. For my team, recreation, we had thought about the games we wanted to play with the kids and how the games could relate to the daily scripture and theme. We even prepared back up games in case we had to call an audible, or had extra time at the end.

This is not my first Peru trip, and certainly not my first time leading a group of kids, even in a foreign language. Each time I’m working with kids whether it’s at VBS, here in Collique, or working at a camp, I always try to have everything prepared and ready to go for day one. However, I seem to forget that no matter how much I prepare ahead of time, I will NEVER know what to expect each day.

PeruSummerBlogDay2As the OSA kids came in for the morning session, I found myself thinking, “Am I REALLY ready for this?” For me, I’ve had enough experience to know that the answer is “no”. Yet knowing that I’m not really ready doesn’t stress me out or worry me. I’ve learned that as long as I keep a positive attitude and a willing spirit, I can help and serve wherever and however I’m needed. So today I feel like I did just about everything: told bible stories, led games, ate deformed PB&Js, and learned how to assemble a wooden penguin (which was a lot harder than we expected). To some, my day of running around being a leader, an interpreter, and a teacher sounds chaotic and exhausting. Truthfully, days like today are why I come on trips like these. I get to have an abundance of such diverse experiences all in one day. It’s my hope that our youth continue to dive into to the work we have started this week and find the same joy I do in working with the people of Collique. 

Drew Barkley is a recent graduate of Emory University, fluent in Spanish, and is leading our Bible Story and Recreation rotations with VBS at OSA. This is his third trip to OSA, and first as an adult chaperone.


Peru Mission Trip Summer 2016 Day 1

June 12, 2016

By Anna Rader

Today, we got the opportunity to visit OSA’s new church, Luz de Esperanza, and meet some of their youth as well as participate in their worship service. As returning youth, we saw some familiar faces and encountered new ones as we passed through confused faces and broken translations with silly games, from finger jousting to Gigantes, Magos, y Duendes. Sharing some of our own youth group game traditions, we got to know the other youth and break the ice. After these games, we sang for them in both Hebrew and Spanish and listened to a heartwarming story told by Kevin and translated into Spanish by Dennis. As we worshipped together, we realized that while we may speak different languages, sing different songs, or pray in different ways, we all worship the same God. Our faith unites people from Houston, Rome, Collique, and many other cities around the world, which is a very comforting and humbling feeling.perusummer2016Day1.jpg

Anna Rader is a recent graduate of Manvel High School. In the Fall she will be attend William & Mary.


Love Without Chocolate

February 13, 2012

By Rachel McCarty, South Main Member

It’s amazing that even though I’m living halfway across the world, South Main still feels like it’s a drive away. SMBC has been and always be my home away from home. I’m a fourth-generation church member and like my entire family, I bleed green and gold. I graduated from Baylor last May with a degree in Social Work. Immediately after graduation I was blessed with the opportunity to teach English in northern Thailand which is where I currently reside. I have spent this year becoming immersed in a wonderful culture, teaching and learning from precious Thai teenagers, and trying to grasp a better understanding of what I want my future to look like.

During this time I have discovered a deep passion in the area of International work and human trafficking which I plan to pursue as a career after graduate school. One living example of human trafficking that has recently received news coverage is that of child slaves working on cocoa plantations in West Africa. This part of Africa, specifically the Ivory Coast produces 70% of the world’s cocoa. UNICEF has estimated that 500,000 children are working in harsh conditions with little to no pay. Most receive no education and have been forcibly taken from their homes and families. Despite harvesting cocoa for up to fifteen hours a day, many have never even tasted chocolate. This is not a new issue. The Harkin-Engel Protocol or “Cocoa Protocol” called for an end to child slavery ten years ago. It is still unclear whether or not the protocol reduced child labor. Major chocolate companies like M&M/Mars, Nestle, Hershey, and Ferrero Rocher have given no proof of the changes they agreed to a decade ago.

As soon as I heard about the issue I knew I had to get involved. Some friends and I created a social movement called “Love Without Chocolate” that is beginning with a focus on the Valentine’s Day holiday. We are asking that people like you join our boycott of non-fair trade chocolate during the days when chocolate companies make a fortune. Americans alone purchase nearly sixty million pounds of chocolate during the days leading up to Valentine’s Day. Our hope is to raise awareness and get the attention of the chocolate industry that is allowing child slavery to continue.

Awareness is just the beginning step of social justice for these children, but change has to start somewhere. Please help us spread the word. Let’s demand change and speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. To learn more about our movement and ways to get involved, please visit our Facebook page “Love Without Chocolate”.

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” – Proverbs 31:8-9

Facebook page
Twitter
E-mail address:  lovewithoutchocolate@gmail.com

A few fair trade chocolate companies include Divine Chocolate and Equal Exchange.  Grocery stores like Whole Foods should also carry fair trade chocolate.

Thank you for your consideration to join this cause!


Accepting the Call

May 26, 2011

The Conaway Family: (left to right) Sam, Carmen, Erin and Alex

To My Dear South Main Family,

Guided as we believe by the Holy Spirit through a process of listening and discernment, Carmen and Alex and Sam and I have accepted the call for me to be the next Pastor of Seventh and James Baptist Church in Waco, TX. There are so many things churning within us about this decision: humble enthusiasm about this next step, plenty of trepidation about the new role and responsibilities, deep pain about being three hours away from you and about leaving this church family and my privileged position of walking with you through so many sacred spaces; but beneath the roller coaster of emotions there is an overwhelming sense of peace that this is exactly what God is calling us to do. We have been completely embraced by the people at Seventh and have felt and continue to feel their joy and excitement about our days to come.

The timing seems to be way off, I’m telling you this on the first Sunday after our pastor is gone on a much deserved and now I think very timely sabbatical. Steve has been a part of this journey the entire way through. He and I have talked this to death, prayed about it a lot, and he has been a wonderful encourager and given me his blessing at every step along the way. We have worked so closely together these past eight years and have provided real balance to one another-it’s hard for me to imagine doing ministry without him and I know I will stagger around some while I get my bearings as we both learn to do this in different places. All along we have talked with you about our Sabbatical plan, and that will not change-we still have a strong pastoral team in place to serve with you through Steve’s time away, and that will include me for most of that journey. Our last Sunday here will be July 17th, so we have plenty of time to walk this season of transition in our journey in ministry together.

And I want you to hear me say, in no way could I go there if I had not been here.

This is the place where I learned so much of what I know about being a minister;

This is the place where nine years ago, you took a chance and called a dirt salesman to help out in the college ministry and our love affair began;

This is the place where we learned what it means to serve a church family with all that we are and to be loved in return in ways we could not have imagined;

This is the place where we began the wonderful and terrifying journey of parenthood and you walked this path with us every step of the way;

This is the place where I learned what it is to be a part of a team in ministry and to see the wonder of God using our different gifts and talents to do far more with us together than we could ever do apart;

This is the place where my missional heart has exploded trying to keep up with how fast and how far God’s love is flowing out to our neighbors here and around the world;

This is the place where my heart has heard your stories and held them close-in agony and celebration you have allowed me to sit with you and pray with you and hear you and I will forever be blessed because of that great privilege;

This is the place I will always cherish and you will be a part of us wherever we go. Thank you, thank you, thank you from our hearts that are overflowing with your blessing and your love.

Grace & Truth,

Erin, Carmen, Alex & Sam Conaway


Sharing the Promise: The Maundy of Maundy Thursday

April 21, 2011

By Dr. Linda Brupbacher, an education professor at Houston Baptist University as well as a Bible study teacher and a newly ordained deacon at South Main Baptist Church. Linda is Hart’s wife, Lee and Lori’s mom, Lauren and Raymond’s mother-in-law and Will’s grandmother.

Most of us associate Thursday of Holy Week with the Lord’s Supper and Garden of Gethsemane events.  However, neither of these is the reason for the “Maundy” label.  “Maundy” comes from the Latin mandatum, the first word of the Latin phrase that is translated  “A new commandment I give unto you that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34).   After Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, He issued this new command (mandatum).

Walking dusty roads in sandals often resulted in really dirty feet.  The custom was to provide foot washing water and towels just inside the entryway to a home. If slaves were available, the slave with the very lowest status was assigned the foot-washing task.  Even among slaves, this was considered a lowly, undesirable chore.  However, that didn’t stop Jesus from washing the disciples’ feet.

Evidently the disciples didn’t wash their own feet as they entered the upper room–so sometime early that evening Jesus knelt and washed their feet.  Scripture offers no indication of prior conversation about the need for clean feet or discussion about who would or should do the foot washing.  Jesus simply noticed the need and acted to meet it.  It was an act of humility and service.  And, it clearly illustrated the new commandment:  love each other as I have loved you.

This commandment is so consistent with Jesus’ life and with His other teachings that its label as “new” seems somewhat surprising.  However, its content isn’t surprising at all.  Jesus consistently advocated and modeled loving people.

Loving one another is one of those things that sounds simple– but isn’t always easy.  Jesus cared, He noticed, and He acted—and we are expected to do likewise.  How to actually do this is one of the challenges of Maundy Thursday and of everyday as we attempt to more deeply share the promise.  Choosing whether or not to do this isn’t really presented as an option.

Heavenly Father,

Help us follow Jesus’ model of humility and service—of truly loving others.  Erase any self-centeredness, pride or fear that might keep us from doing this.  Help us notice the needs of others and act to help meet those needs.  Please give us humble, compassionate, servant hearts that compel us to live this commandment.   Amen.


New chances. New life. New futures.

February 23, 2011

By Kevin Sinclair, Minister to Youth

I’ve seen two things recently on which–I think–God wants me to reflect. These two events represent, on one hand, the paradoxical spectrum of work that we ministers do from time to time.

First off, let me say, have you ever had one of those weeks where you had like three things you HAD to get done, and by Thursday you realize, due to other metaphorical fires that need extinguishing (Tom Ehlers, a firefighter, is one of my all-star youth leaders, so I feel as though I should specify the figurative, imaginary nature of MY fires), you have not done any of those tasks? Yep. That is what I am talking about.

Armed with a cup of coffee and the best intentions, I set out to complete my task: DiscipleNOW logistics, an exhaustive email to Host Homes and Leaders, and Curriculum, Curriculum, Curriculum! In the words of the great poet, Meatloaf…two outta three ain’t bad…right?

As the morning rolled along and I crafted my emails and work, like Michelangelo if he had an Apple Laptop and was writing emails, and I received a distressing email from my beloved former church colleague, now turned city-wide colleague, the always marvelous, Chelsea Wade, who is now doing extraordinary development work over at SEARCH Homeless Service. It was the day of their GED Graduation service, and Erin Conaway was commissioned to offer the invocation. The pianist for the service canceled at the last minute, and they needed not only a keyboardist, but a keyboard itself. Fortunately, the ever-resourceful Thomas Coker had an extra electronic keyboard in his office that he allowed me to take to Chelsea. After dropping off this relic from 1994 of an instrument (Hey, it played notes at least!), I left SEARCH. A hour later, poor, sweet Chelsea discovers that her now back-up keyboardist has canceled, and asks if I can bring my guitar and play a little. Erin and I rush to my house where my trusty guitar, affectionately named Hudson by my friend Chris August, the previous owner, and I see my new accordion. “Hmm, I wonder…” I pick up my accordion and play, without a blemish the first half of pomp and circumstance, and then fumble through a few notes. Surprising as it might seem, I am not so bold and brash to carry an instrument I can barely play (I am getting there, but not quite yet!), to a graduation service and blare out tunes on my accordion (Yet to be named, btw).

We arrive to the service, and in walk the graduates. Two young men enter from the back wearing green graduation robes and hats, followed by many others who are being promoted to the next level within the program. As the teachers and also Mike Feinberg who started KIPP and Yes Prep (If you don’t know what these are, google them) rose to spoke, a sense of affirmation and pride swelled in the room. I can’t speak for everyone else in the room, but the dining area at SEARCH, for that moment at least, became holy ground…a place of second, third, fourth, possibly even seventy times seven chances…a place of resurrection and salvation. One woman rose to tell her story, a story of abuse, addiction, failure, and ultimately victory and redemption. She ended by saying, as simply as I have ever heard, yet more profoundly than all my seminary classes combine, “When I was going through recovery, my sponsor always said, ‘I know it’s hard, but with God all things are possible.'”

New chances. New life. New futures. Who could ask for more for these young men?

So as I right this on a cold evening, I took my youth bowling at Palace Bowling Lanes. To match the standard Kid’s Night Out format, we were scheduled to be at Palace Lanes from 6:30 to 10:00 bowling. In case you have not done the math, that’s 3 1/2 hours of being in the same place with a gaggle of middle schoolers and high schoolers. Now, faithful blog reader, if I’m lyin’, I’m dyin’…our group two years ago would have after about 2 hours started fussing about how bored they were or just left…but not this group. Our youth group has gone through some major maturation and evolution in the past two and a half years I have been here. It takes time to knit community, and God is doing that with us on a day to day basis. Tonight, I was absolutely floored at the camaraderie, patience, love, enthusiasm, and joy that just permeated our five lanes. Everyone being cheered for when they knocked down even one pin, and then encouraged on every gutterball.

I told some of my leaders, “Look at this. They just love each other!” The drama, cliques, and junk all left at the door…high schoolers and middle schoolers playing together and just living life and loving every second of it. I struggle a great deal to think how I can make this group closer and better.

Am I one good curriculum or night of worship away from becoming exactly who God has created us to be? I think not. I think we are, in fact, already exactly who God created us to be, but the beauty with how God sees workmanship is that the work is never complete. We are all at once whole and perfectly formed, and broken, longing for repair.

What do these stories have to do with each other. Maybe nothing at all. Maybe everything. What seems to amaze me the most about how God does whatever it is that God does is that so often the most beautiful, holy, sacred moments in life are the ones that we don’t orchestrate…we just show up with our guitar to make some music or we buy a couple of pizzas and God takes those meager offerings and before we know it, we stand in the presence of the Kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven.


Grace around the table…by Cleavy McKnight

November 5, 2010

By Cleavy McKnight, South Main Member

On the evening of December 23rd, 2009, South Main hosted a dinner in the church gym for some of our less-fortunate midtown neighbors. Church members prepared delicious barbecue, and many South Main members spent the afternoon and evening preparing plates of meats, mashed potatoes, green beans, rolls, and dessert. The line of guests snaked its way out the door of the Activity Center and down the sidewalk to the street. We served over 100 visitors.

While the warm meal was doubtless appreciated, there was another aspect of the event that, I believe, was even more significant to our guests. Members of the South Main family sat at the tables with our guests during dinner. We listened to their stories and shared some of our own. We talked and laughed and shed a few tears. For that evening, we made our guests a part of our family.

Perhaps the most unique aspect of the evening was the broad range of South Main members who participated, from children in elementary school all the way up to senior adults. Our visitors learned that South Main is a place of people who care. Our members were reminded of the grace we have received, and the joy of sharing that grace in the simplest of ways. We recalled Christ’s words that “whenever you have done these things for one of the least of these, you have done these things for me.”

As the meal ended, we gave our guests small backpacks, packed leftovers for them to take away and share, and gave them warm sleeping bags to combat the night chill. With gratitude, they shook our hands. With hugs, and a few more tears, we accompanied them back out onto the streets.

I thought about the many blessings I have received – blessings unearned, blessings given me through grace. I thought about what my children might have learned from joining in the evening’s meal and fellowship. I prayed that our visitors had felt, and would continue to feel, “our love, our care, our kinship, and our hopes.” I gave thanks for grace received, and for the joy of grace shared.

I look forward to new opportunities for this mission-minded church to give grace.

Give Grace.