Greeting to all The Antioch Initiative partners (1 Cor. 3:9 / Eph. 2:18-22). What a Wonderful God we serve (Ps. 111)!
The purpose of our October trip to Pennsylvania was to explore possible locations for a third church plant and/or to discuss with local brethren other ways to encourage and partner with them in order to strengthen the Lord's Church in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
I was blessed to be able to have Dr. & Mrs. Dan Wheeler (Grace) traveling with me. Brother Terry Carlisle (one of the Elmore elders) had to cancel on Friday night the 21st, because American Airlines cancelled our early flight out of Montgomery, AL. Terry was suffering with a bad knee and walking was extremely painful.
We flew out of Birmingham to The Wlkes Barre/Scranton airport arriving in Tunkhannock ,PA at the Comfort Inn about 9:00 p.m. Until which time we are able to locate a full time minister for TK [The Endless Mountains church of Christ], we are using PA.brethren to cycle into that town of our second church plant to teach & preach on Sundays. Bill Garrett (of the Lewistown, PA congregation) is responsible for scheduling this group of dedicated and sound brethren to preach and teach each week.
Brother Arthur Barry and his wife, Sandy, [the preacher in the first church plant in Sayre/ Athens, PA & Waverly, NY] travel down on Wednesday nights from The Valley Cities congregation (1st church plant) to teach.
Bill & Donna Garrett know Dan & Grace very well. Bill was one of the elders at a congregation in Orlando, FL where Dan served as the minister several years ago. Bill & Donna were waiting up for us when we arrived at the Comfort Inn Saturday night. God showers His children with great blessing everyday, One of these blessings is to enjoy fellowship with other precious brethren.
I was so thankful to be around such loving brethren as the ones I met on this trip.
Brother Ben Wright (Lisa, his wife) (one of the elders at Kittanning, PA, that oversees Arthur Barry at Valley Cities, PA) was present to preach for us Sunday morning and Dan taught the Bible class. What an inspiring worship to the Lord God! We had Emily & Molly, the charter members of the Endless Mountains congregation, along with their children. Pete and his friend, Charlie, was with us. Pete is a local guy that is being studied with and pitched in this summer to assist with the dry-willing of our church meeting place. Further, Terry & Barbara Straight visited with us at the church services that day. Terry was an elder in North Carolina before they moved to Delaware.They own property just out side TK and said they come down often to spend a few days and check on their property. He said he will be glad to be put in the rotation to teach & preach when they are here. They were so thankful to hear about the Lord's Church being planted in TK. We knew it would be a slow process to build the church in TK, but God is involved in a big way. We see Emily & Molly growing and local people seem to be getting more interested in the Endless Mountains church of Christ.
Ben & Lisa had to go back home, but Bill & Donna went with us to meet with the Wellsboro brethren in Wellsboro, PA, which is about 2 hours to the west of Tunkhannock that Sunday afternoon. Arthur Barry met us in Wellsboro. That congregation is about 30 to 35 in number. When we were looking at possible locations for the third church plant, the town of Mansfield came up in a discussion. It is located on the main East/ West Hwy #6 and the North/South Hwy #15 with a university. Part of the considerations for planting the church in any given area is to look at the closest congregation and ask for their advice & involvement.
Several of the Wellsboro brethren met with us. The good ladies brought cookies and refreshments.
We met in the basement of their building and discussed how to best start an outreach program in their are including our thoughts about Mansfield. It was a two hour meeting with several suggestions offered.
We ask about the Mansfield University inquiring if they had tried to start a campus ministry. They said they had not tried a Campus ministry, but informed us that one of their members was a professor at the university, but was not able to attend this meeting because he was in the process of retiring from the University in May of next year and was moving out of their house and into an apartment. We were given Dr. Gary McIntyre's contact information. Brother McIntyre is the Assistant Professor at the Department of Communication. We contacted Brother McIntyre and set up a lunch date for Tuesday the 25th.
I ask the Wellsboro brethren would they partner with us in a campus ministry if brother McIntyre would help us? They all agreed to be partners with us in whatever outreach could be decided upon.
They are good brethren that want to be about the Lord's business.
We traveled to a little community called Sylvania. We noticed a building with a "Church of Christ "sign in front on our way through Sylvania Sunday afternoon, so we went back "Check It Out". The sign did not have any contact information on it, so we ask around and was told the preacher lived in the little brown house behind the building. Dan and I knocked on the door and finally a Older Gentleman came to the door. We exchanged greeting and found out that the church was an instrumental congregation with about 6 to 12 members on a good Sunday.The preacher did not know anything about any of our brotherhood universities or churches, He knew about some Disciples of Christ churches in the area.
We followed Bill & Donna about 40 miles west to Coudersport. Several years ago there was a Lord's church in Coudersport, but it was no longer meting. Bill knew the name and contact information of the preacher's wife--sister Judith McKeone. Bill called her and ask about meeting with us. Sister Judith said she would be delighted to visit. We drove to Coudersport and enjoyed a wonderful visit with her. She told us about the church and how her husband tried to keep it active and growing, but over the years members moved away because of jobs being lost.
Her husband lost his health and the Church started to dry up. The Church has not met together for several years. The City of Coudersport seems to be a active city with several stores and shopping areas.
One of the problems would be that it is so far from other congregations of the Lord's Church that it would be hard to get much support from local brethren, if we planted a church there.Her son was worshiping with the local Methodist church. Sister Judith was so glad we had come to visit. Bill & Donna had to leave us at Coudersport and go to Michigan, so we said good by in Judith's yard.
The Antioch Initiative is so fortunate to have a great brother like Bill Garrett as our local PA partner.
Dan, Grace and I drove back to Mansfield to spend the night and meet brother Gary McIntyre for lunch on Tuesday.
We left the Micro-tel motel and drove south to Hwy 414 east to check out the Church of Christ buildings in Ogdensburg and Canton. A beautiful drive going across the country even if it was raining with a little snow falling from time to time. Just east of the small community of Ogdenburg we topped a hill and on the left was a beautiful old church building with "Church of Christ " on the sign and it had a car parked in the parking lot. We turn around and went back to talk with whoever might be at the building. What a wonderful experience even after finding that this was another Instrumental group. The lady showed us through the building. They has spent $100k on renovations to this building, and it showed. The wood work was very impressive. We ended up in the basement where several of the ladies met every day to make quilts to give away and sell at local crafts shows. We talked with the ladies for quite a while about the importance of keeping the gospel pure. We were told that their "pastor," a Methodist layman, was a great musician! We were told that the church building in Canton was "The Disciples of Christ."
We did not have time to go to Canton, we had to meet brother McIntyre for lunch.
God blessed us with a great lunch with brother McIntyre. A discussion took place regarding the university's climate for a campus ministry and brother McIntyre's thoughts on starting a ministry.
He seems to be open to the possibility of starting such a ministry whether on or off campus. He seems to think most of the student body was from "grass roots " types of families. He brought a list of the current religious organizations that were working on & around the campus. He seems a little unsure about all the rules concerning starting a ministry, but would get that information for us to look at, and then decide if we wanted to pursue this idea. Dan,Grace and I discussed the possibilities of the Minister (when we find him) could serve Tunkhannock and could drive over to the Mansfield University once or twice per week to carry on a campus ministry. The 50 mile drive wouild not be out of the question and as Grace said " The drive is beautiful."
We said good by to Gary and he promised to get back with us with the information. We drove through the cities of Troy and Towanda on our way to Sayre/ Athens where we were to meet Arthur Barry and have dinner with Nate & Kelly--the young doctor & his wife who recently took a position with the large Gurtrie Hospital located in Sayre. Nate and Kelly have two small children. Arthur said the first Sunday Nate & Kelly visited the Valley Cities church, Nate started leading singing. Nate said he had never led singing before. They just jumped right in and are truly a blessing to the church.
Such a joy to meet fine young Christians that are ready to be active in the Lord's service. What a blessing for Arthur & Sandy to have this young family as part of the Valley Cities church of Christ.
Kelly insisted on paying for our evening meal saying it was their treat to finally meet us after hearing Arthur & Sandy talking about us. What a wonderful day and too God be the glory!
After a good night's sleep at the Sayre Best Western Motel, we headed to Dryden, NY where Arthur & Sandy live. Dryden is located just north of the Valley Cities area about 30 miles. What a wonderful couple who are truly servants of the Lord. We visited with Arthur & Sandy, enjoying a great lunch. Sandy makes the best bean soup in existence! This strengthened us as we started the drive to Tunkhannock for Wed. night Bible study that included a study with a young deputy sheriff. Arthur has been studying with him for a couple of studies already. He has been involved with a denominational church in the area for some time, but was not satisfied with what was being taught. He is still "Hung Up " on some issues, but seems to like what he has been hearing from Arthur. We intentionally planned on going through Montrose (the county seat of Susquehanna county) to take another look at a possible church plant there. Some of our team looked at Montrose a couple of years ago when we were looking for a second church location, but once we saw Tunkhannock we put Montrose on the back burner. Montrose is definitely a strong consideration for the third church plant. The Lord's Church does not exist in Susquehanna county.
We met Emily, Molly and their children at the church building for Bible study. Emily & Molly are Arthur & Sandy's daughters along with Emily's son and Molly's son and daughters who making up the members of the Endless Mountains church of Christ. Arthur taught the class. It was inspiring, Arthur knows how to teach in such a way to involve everyone.We said our good byes at the building as Arthur & Sandy drive back home each Wed. night, about a 1 1/2 / 2 hour drive back to Dryden, NY.
Let me say again, "What a blessing to be working together with such precious Christians!!"
Working together in the Lord's Kingdom here on earth is just part of the wonderful blessings He has in store for His children.
We departed Wilkes- Barre / Scranton Airport on time and enjoyed a smooth flight to Charlotte and then to Montgomery. Arriving Montgomery about 4:15 PM.
What we are considering at this point in time is a continuation of the search for a full time minister and overseeing eldership for that minister in Tunkhannock; follow Up with Brother Gary McIntyre and the brethren at Wellsboro to explore the initiation of a campus ministry at the Mansfield University; & proper funding for these missions mentioned..Lord willing both of these issues can be solved soon, so brethren please continue to pray fervently for this to happen. If God wills, we can have both of these issues completed by Spring of 2017.
We will continue to explore the proper location for the third Church Plant and it currently looks like either Troy or Montrose.
Samuel Ologuen is from Nigeria and is studying over here. He was contacted through the VBS door-knocking campaign and has been attending with us for two months. He was baptized on Friday night, November 4,2016.
The church at Horseheads, NY let us use their baptistry as it is a bit cold for river baptisms now.
8:00 AM – 8:45
Free Continental Breakfast
9:00AM – 12:00PM
12:00 Lunch (on your own)
1:00 – Closing
“Building a Rock Solid Foundation”
“Maintaining a Rock Solid Connection”
“Three Things You Can Start Today”
"A Rock Solid Heritage of Love"
Brent is the minister for the Prattville Church of Christ, Prattville, AL.
NOTE: There is no charge for this event
On Sunday, August 28th, Don & Jimmy were asked to present the church planting ministry of Elmore’s Antioch Initiative to the Beech Bethany congregation near Moss, TN. Kenny Westmoreland (m iddle/right is the minister of the congregation) commented after services, “Beech Bethany will want to support this work and I would like to travel and visit those two church plants in PA!” They have a country congregation of 175 people. Kevin Donaldson (elder of Moss congregation in Moss, TN) joined Dennis Miller (minister/elder of Moss congregation in supporting the Antioch Initiative $500 per month.
Dave & Lynne Laton are in Tunkhannock, PA serving with the Endless Mts. church plant for a second month's tour. The the recent outreach in Wyoming County PA was a Ladies' Day. Such events aim at making long-range inroads into the community and to build fraternity among regional and out-of-state brethren.
Saturday morning's Ladies' Day centered around prayer was said to have been a blessing to all who attended. (There was a total of 11.) We had one local visitor who is associated with the Assembly of God. We also had 2 sisters from the Camp Hill congregation in Harrisburg, and 3 sisters from Lewistown (one was there as a Sojourner, and is a friend of Kay's). That was a pleasant surprise. Bill Garrett drove them here, so the men enjoyed a visit with him that morning. While we were meeting the men discussed the Tunkhannock work with David and offered excellent insights and advice.
Val Brown, the wife of Reggie Brown - one of the elders at Prattville, talked to us about how to pray. She had recently been asked by a new Christian how to pray, which brought about some ideas to present to us. We asked for prayer requests from everyone and spent some time talking about praying believing. Then we spent some time in prayer, including bringing the requests turned in before our Father. Kay Little, my sister and wife of Larry Little, who together have done mission work in West Africa, Russia, and Romania, as well as being in the Sojourners, addressed the topic of seeing answered prayers. Some people seem to think that if they don't get what they prayed for that God didn't answer their prayers. There is more than one possible answer - yes, no, wait, I have something better planned. We interspersed some singing throughout the program, and had some door prizes to award before dismissing. Our Molly Rivera opened us in prayer, and Sandy Zimmerman dismissed us with prayer. One of our sisters told us that she had been to a few ladies' days on prayer, but this one had been the best, maybe just addressing present needs. We had extra hand outs available and were glad to send some home to hopefully bless others. (I had prepared prayer journals and some booklets with poems, sayings, scriptures, and prayers.).
I am getting ready to make cards to send to all who attended and will follow up as able. Please express our thanks and appreciation to all those who support the work at Endless Mountains, and we ask that you continue to keep this work in your prayers. They have become a part of our hearts and we better understand how Paul felt about the congregations that he helped start and prayed fervently for in his absence.
To Him, our high priest, intercessor, and Savior, be all the glory.
The elders of Sycamore church of Christ in Cookeville, TN met with Jimmy and Don on Saturday, August 27th, for a great meal and two hour meeting following the meal. Charles Vaughn (left/ bottom) indicated, “Sycamore church is going to support the Antioch Initiative at some level and we will let you know.” Sycamore church is a church of 400 that sent 25 workers to Tunkhannock, PA to assist the new Endless Mts. congregation with a VBS in July of this year.
The VBS in Sayre was a big hit. Here is proof
VBS 2016 concluded on Sunday, Aug 14 but VBS 2016 is not history.
Beginning with the arrival of Larry Krause from Kittanning on Sunday, Aug 7, others from Kittanning and Camp Hill began pouring into Sayre. By Friday we had around 30 people here including children. Several of these children helped to knock doors during some very hot days.
All told, this group put in a good eighty man / days. As a result we had 13 young visitors for both days of our VBS. I asked one of three 15 yr old girls how they liked it and if it was what they expected. Veronica said “No – it is way cooler than the one I usually go to.”
We had several repeat visitors from last year and one mother explained how her two sons had been anxiously waiting for us to come around with flyers and were getting worried that they had missed it. I really feel that we are a part of the community now.
There is much follow-up work to be done including leads for people who did not actually come to VBS. Please pray that we can continue the marvelous work done by so many loving brothers and sisters because VBS 2016 is not history…it has only just begun!
God is good!
Some quick updates on progress in the church-planting work in PA are as follows:
More later as God blesses...
Tim Mann (B.A. graduate of V.P. Black College of Biblical Studies at Faulkner University) is scheduled to journey toward Eclectic, AL tomorrow after successfully conducting ministry at Endless Mountains church plant the entire month of July.
Don Myers (preacher of Elmore congregation in Elmore, AL & Assistant Professor of Bible at Faulkner with wife, Judy, and grandson, Jordon); Gene Clemons (global church planter from Pikeville, KY); Sam Ackers (deacon of the Pikeville congregation); Terry Carlisle (elder of the Elmore church with wife, Winni), Jonathan Carlisle (deacon of Elmore church with wife, Brandi, and son, Jack) and Roger Rives (with nephews, Grayson and Gavin) were with him significant portions and at different times during the month. All Summer 2016 participants traveled at their own personal expense or raised their travel funding outside the Antioch Initiative fund. In short, sacrifices are being made on the part of numbers of Christians.
Tim & Patsy with entire family traveled and involved themselves in the day to day ministry and needs of the new church plant. During the last few days of the trip, Tim suffered the break down of his transmission and the elders of Elmore underwrote the $2100 repairs--not intending to take funds from the Antioch Initiative, but through a special church contribution. (Anyone wishing to assist with this expense may send your check made out to: Elmore Church of Christ, POB 95, Elmore, AL 36025 and earmark--Tim Mann.
Among the tasks performed by Tim were: preaching, teaching, finish renovation of the church meeting place, follow-up on June campaign contacts, one-on-one Bible studies, and, generally, getting to know and interfacing with several local residents.
Tim re-linked with Dr. Dave Laton (and wife, Lynne) on Saturday, 7/30/16. Tim was to orient Dave on prospect developments during the month of July. Dave will serve for the entire month of August in ministry at Endless Mountains church.
Beginning the first Sunday of September 2016, Bill Garrett (a faithful and wise brother of Lewistown congregation in Lewistown, PA) will activate his team of six rotational Pennsylvania preachers who will begin traveling to Tunkhannock to preach, teach, and evangelize each weekend until a full time evangelist is secured. (Soon Bill will submit a report to us aimed at acquainting each of us through a digital photograph and bio-sketch of each rotational preacher. Watch for that report soon.)
Rotational preachers are volunteering their time and are committed to expend their own finances for food and gasoline to take their periodic trips. Yet, the Antioch Initiative is seeking funding to assist with their lodging expenses. It was believed that such would be prohibitive in making these trips on their parts practical and doable. The cost of one night's lodging at Comfort Inn in Tunkhannnock with a hot breakfast is $90 total (room, taxes, etc. included). $1720 has been raised thus far to offset these lodging expenses. Should any reader of this report want to participate in funding those spokesmen of the gospel, please send your check to: Elmore Church of Christ, POB 95, Elmore, AL 36025 and earmark--Rotational Preacher Lodging.
Meanwhile, core leaders of the Antioch are advancing their preacher search by publicizing the need for a Tunkhannock evangelist in the Christian Chronicle, Gospel Advocate, and other brotherhood publications. September 25 - 27, Don Myers will preach a gospel meeting outside of Cookeville, TN at Moss, TN. The Moss elders are now supporting the work $500 per month and are initiating efforts to introduce Don, Jimmy Davis, and Stan Taylor to other regional church leaders aimed at recruiting other partners for the Antioch Initiative. Further, Don will speak at Westside congregation in Searcy, AR on Wednesday, August 3rd. Westside Mission Committee have already had an interview with Jimmy, Stan, and Don to consider putting this work in the future mission planning. Another appointment will come in late August with the eldership at Liberty congregation in Hope Hull, AL. Core leaders of the Antioch Initiative stand ready to travel and present this work to other leaderships when called upon.
Now that the Endless Mountains church of Christ has been launched, the core leaders of the Antioch Initiative have already begun preliminary and informal chats to see the wheels begin to turn (Lord blessing us) for the 3rd church plant in either Susquehanna or Sullivan County Pennsylvania.
More later as God blesses...