God is at work on His mission and it is up to us to join Him (cp. Acts 17). That statement is not original with me, but I've made it mine!
There is so much to tell concerning God's mighty workings in Pennsylvania, but allow me to give you this very encouraging piece of recent news.
Arthur Barry (Evangelist of Valley Cities church plant, Sayre, PA) took the initiative to tell me that he is going to approach the members of the new church plant in Sayre this Sunday (6/28/15) to urge them to take on the $700 per month expense of the rental on their meeting place, or, at least, some portion of the same. That congregation began from day-one to pay their own utility expenses.
On Sunday, June 14 we had the largest group ever for our worship services as our visitors joined us for one last time before beginning their respective journeys home. This was such a blessing.
On Monday I received contact information, from David Tarbet, for a lady in Sayre who had asked for Bible correspondence course material. This was in response to the direct mailing of Christ for Today. So on Tuesday I found Lida Warman and her husband Victor and spent quite a bit of time with them. We got along famously and they asked many, substantive questions. At one point Lida asked me to pray for her friend Karen who had a daughter, Michelle, who suffers from Lyme disease. I was happy to do that but when I found out that these folks actually lived in Tunkhannock I resolved to make another journey there to visit them, if possible.
Karen owns, “Karen’s Thrift and Gift” and I was able to find the store the next day but Karen wasn’t there and neither was Michelle. Michelle’s husband, Dennis Klein was there and so was a friend whose name is Noreen. Michelle is too sick to leave the house and definitely needs prayers, please.
This was another very satisfying visit as Dennis and I share an interest in acoustic guitar music. But we also shared quite a bit about our faith and I will definitely visit again.
There is some retail space for sale in their building which is in a very small mall situation. When I asked Dennis about it he told me about the availability of some space in the rear of the complex that might be suitable for a church meeting place. I was able to contact the owner and was shown around. The space is very similar to the space we rent in Sayre but this is in a very good location with ample parking. It does need a lot of work, however.
So I enjoyed two of the nicest visits of my time in PA, so far, and I feel that the contact with
Tunkhannock has to be more than coincidence.
God is good!
The following recording ir one featuring Bill Garrett of Lewistown, PA giving and his perspective of the potential impact of the Marcellus Shale and the great influx of industries into Northern Pennsylvania, Southern NY, Ohio, and West Virginia that promise a population explosion in those areas for generations to come.
This offers the prospect of bring people into areas where we are planting churches who are members of the church.
Last Saturday, June 13, Doug and Darlene Elsbree invited the group to their house for a picnic. The group consisted of two families and several individuals who are part of the Antioch Initiative team who traveled to Sayre earlier in the week. They came for the purpose of scouting out a new location for the next church planting in this area. Five of the group had already begun their journey home early on Saturday morning. Gene and Tina Clemons along with Sam and Shirley Akers were headed back to Pikeville, Kentucky. Orrin Nearhoof was making his way back to Richmond, KY. These brethren had contributed so much to our deliberations with their wisdom, faith, and clarity of thought.
The Elsbrees were gracious hosts and Darlene even sang for us while encouraging others, young and old, to try their skills at Karaoke. Much of the conversation was still dominated by thoughts about the success of the recent mission and how to fulfill the next phase. Kyle and Tiffany Cantrell had traveled with their children, Bliss, Glory and Trace. They are members of the Prattville church in Alabama, as are Jonathan and Meagan Jett with their children, Luke and Summer. These families were a delight to be around and part of our discussions that week had been geared to, and steered by, the needs and thinking of these precious young souls.
June 12, 2015
The purpose of the meeting tonight is to decide, with God’s guidance, the next location for a congregation in the Northeast. Valley Cities Church of Christ began on Sunday, October 19, 2014. Congregations from Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi and Pennsylvania help support this work. Current congregations were marked on a Pennsylvania map which showed that there were no congregations in the center of the map. They were mainly along the highway across Pennsylvania. Between Sayre and Scranton, there are no congregations of the Lord’s church. This week, church members visited Wyalusing, Tunkhannock, and Montrose as possible locations for the next church plant.
and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I
build on someone else’s foundation. Romans 15:20
These four counties in Northeast, PA are not really in the category that Paul describes as places he would target. Christ has been named in the entire world and who is to say that no true disciple of Jesus has ever been in these parts before these last few years? But when it comes to churches of Christ, faithful to the New Testament pattern for faith and fellowship, this area is definitely a wilderness. So why would 25 or so disciples, from several states, make such sacrifices to come and spend time in this wilderness? Because any saint worth his salt knows that God does some of His best work in the wilderness.
I witnessed that happening on a level that I have never witnessed before during these few days when those who support the Antioch Initiative dream briefly “over-ran” several towns in Wyoming, Sullivan and Susquehanna counties. Lots of planning had been done, involving an intense communication campaign mounted primarily by Don Myers. Thousands of miles have been traveled by some who you might think would have wearied of travelling many mission trips ago. But these are people who thrive on mission trips and, if you are privileged to join with them, some of that cannot help but rub off on you. If you have accepted that such activity is only for those who are in their prime you would be greatly surprised. I am 66 but I was not the oldest there. Neither was I the youngest. Several had to rely on pain-killers to help them on any day even after surgery to repair shoulders, hips, and spines. One even succumbed to car-sickness but at seven years old he will probably grow out of that.
It is hard to express my gratitude for this monumental effort and it is impossible to measure the long-term effect it will have on the outreach efforts. I have a lot to digest and I pray that I can order my ministry in such a way as to redeem that incredible time that the Lord blessed us with.
I am anxious to get a list of the contact info for the group that came on the mission trip. I am finding that I do not have much, especially phone numbers. I really would like to call everyone and in particular need to speak with Gene to find out what he might know about any churches in Vietnam. I have a friend who is trying hard to get something started there. He is in Da Nang.
From June 9 - 14th and God willing, church leaders from at least four states (KY, AL, PA, & NY) representing ten congregations will meet in Sayre, PA to pray, dream, and confer regarding the next church plant in one of three counties—Susquehanna, Wyoming, or Sullivan County, PA. Prayerfully, we all come with willing hearts and readiness to be used as instruments of the Lord Jesus to carry out His great commission mandate. Be certain that God is already at work seeking the reconciliation of lost mankind and it is our job to join Him (cp. Acts 17:22-31). Some among us are planters, others are proven able to water, but we come with keen awareness that only God can give the increase. We come in faith asking God to work. Being convinced that God brought Arthur and Sandy Barry to us on His timetable to serve in Sayre, we come expectantly to ask God to work once again to raise up His spokesmen to go into the fields white unto harvest.
Up to now, we have looked solely to fields needing messengers, but we need to look for fields where potential messengers are already living. Where are the Timothys and the Lukes—men ready to be mentored as disciples? Vast resources are available to provide world-class training while our Timothys and Lukes remain on their jobs living indigenously in the very places and among the very people where the souls need saving and the churches need planting. Their salaries are already raised and in place generated by their own jobs. The church meeting houses are already built and ready for church assemblies to begin in the homes where the Timothys or Lukes live.
Historically, the lethargic process of church planting has been overburdened languishing under unnecessary loads never carried by ancient Christians for the first two hundred and fifty years of church history. The ancients took the gospel to every creature under heaven without a church building and, generally, without paid messengers. Where are the tentmakers?
Arthur and Sandy are, in a great way, tentmakers! Think for a moment of this couple who worked all their lives to retirement willing to bring a substantial amount of their own money into the equation of their support to preach Christ in Sayre! As we think of those individuals and churches who support the Barry’s, the Barry’s have no greater financial supporters than the Barrys themselves. Please don’t allow that fact to be lost on any of us. God bless the Barrys! We love you, Arthur and Sandy. Let the supporters of these fine Christians take heart and renewed energy in continuing as prayerful financial partners with them in their work—the Lord’s work.
Has the answer to global evangelism been hidden in plain sight?
With the successful church planting in Sayre, PA [Bradford County] in October 2014, the Antioch team now was faced with selecting a site for a second church plant in one of the other three counties: Sullivan, Susquehanna, and Wyoming.
To assist the team in this critical process, a report on demographic and census data was prepared for the team’s use. These data considered general population information, and also population centers in the three counties, as well as access to medical services and transportation routes.
At a first team meeting, based on the report noted above, and a visit to the county seat in Sullivan County [Laporte, population 310] and Dushore, population 600, it was agreed that we would bypass Sullivan County at this time.
The team considered the potential for a location in Bradford County that might have reached into the three counties, but upon the team’s visit to this community, it was decided that this was not a viable option. The team also gave some thought to Towanda, the county seat of Bradford County. It has a population of 2789, but it is only 19 miles from Sayre; however, the preacher at the Valley Cities church did not object to that potential. However, in the final analysis, the team decided to focus on Susquehanna and Wyoming Counties.
The team members visited Tunkhannock in Wyoming County, the county seat; and two team members visited Montrose, PA, the county seat of Susquehanna County. Following the team visits, we gathered to discuss the options. Jimmy Davis requested that all of the team spend time in prayer about the decision, and then we should be prepared to reach a decision Friday night, June 12th.
Friday night was a great meeting, with pointed prayers for the success of the Initiative, for the decision, and for the critical need to reach lost souls. We also heard a challenging presentation from Doug Hamilton, the preacher in Camp Hill, PA on the potential to have interns from the Sunset School of Preaching assigned to assist in the continuing work in the four county area.
Jimmy Davis led the team to its unanimous decision, Tunkhannock.
Tunkhannock is the County Seat of Wyoming County, and it has a population of 1,799. During our visit, we noted that it is a vibrant community. It was just a busy town,
It has a fine medical facility, the Tyler Memorial Hospital.
From team member contacts while in Tunkhannock, it appears there is appropriate rental property available, and we learned the crime rate is low.
Tunkhannock is approximately 26 miles from the Church of Christ, Scranton, PA.
Arthur Barry’s daughter and her husband and children live in Wyoming County, and they could potentially serve as a base family for the church. In conversations with the preacher at the Scranton, PA church of Christ [about 29 miles from Tunkhannock] the team learned of potentially other Christians who might worship with a church in Tunkhannock. Interestingly, the preacher, Roger Davis, is very supportive of the idea of a new church plant in Tunkhannock.
Transportation: Tunkhannock is on two highways. It is on route 6 [US route 6] which crosses northern PA, and comes down through Towanda, Wyalusing, through Tunkhannock and then down near Scranton in PA. Highway 6 is a major corridor across northern Pennsylvania. It is also seated on PA route 29 which comes up through Tunkhannock and continues up and through Montrose in Susquehanna County. Highway 29 runs up though Luzerne County [Population 312,000], into Wyoming County and on through Susquehanna County to New York State. It is, thus, a crossroads which affords easy travel to and from a number of communities.
US Route 6 in PA. fully encompasses two Pennsylvania Scenic Byways: the Gateway to the Endless Mountains Scenic Byway along the bypass of Tunkhannock and the Governor Casey Scenic Byway along the freeway portion in Lackawanna County between I-81 in Dunmarra and PA 247 in Jessup. [This information was copied and edited]. The scenic byways bring a number of visitors to the area.
Montrose in Susquehanna County is about 21 miles north from Tunkhannock so there is an “easy reach” into Susquehanna County..
Tunkhannock is 26 miles from the Wilkes-Barre-Scranton International Airport.
Personal observation. I visited with people in Dushore, Wyalusing, Tunkhannock, and Montrose, and in each of these meeting I informed the person to whom I was speaking the nature of our visit to the respective community. The responses were all positive. I did mention we were members of the church of Christ seeking to plant a new congregation in the respective community. Not one of the people with whom I spoke made any negative comments. That was very encouraging.
As I listened to team members as they spoke about making this decision, I could sense a positive spirit and attitude among the team members. I felt God’s was blessing our decision.
Twenty brothers from regional churches, including Valley Cities, Kittanning, Endwell, Horseheads and Wellsboro gathered in Sayre for uplifting fellowship on Saturday. We also welcomed two visitors from the community who expressed a desire to join with us on Sunday.
The theme was “It is time to stop worrying and start trembling”. Three lessons were delivered with myself (Arthur Barry) presenting the Eye-opener, Tim Broadwell from Horseheads presenting the Mind-opener and John Andrianos from Endwell presenting the Heart-opener.
The sisters here did a marvelous job of making sure we were well fed physically and the weather was so nice that we all agreed to take the tables outside and have a picnic lunch.
We are praying that this was the first of many such events that contribute to the building up of the Lord’s Church.
Mind Opener with Tim Broadwelk
Heart Opener with John Andrianos