Archive for March, 2011

March 30, 2011

Prequel to the Coffee Shop Story


It was Fourth of July weekend of 2008, and I had just spent the night hanging out with friends at a local bar. I remember coming home that night and feeling completely empty. I missed having a relationship with God, and I’ll never forget how I started talking to God and praying to have that intimate relationship with him that I missed so much. I thought about how I wanted to start going to church again, but I didn’t know where to go since I had only lived in the city for a little over a year. This testimony goes to show that God hears your prayers and answers them when you least expect it.
The next day I had a rather relaxing one and decided to go to a coffee shop in my neighborhood. When I arrived at the coffee shop the place was empty. While I was placing my order a woman came in and stared at the menu hanging behind the counter. I saw her and didn’t think anything of it and went and sat down. Once the woman had finished ordering she came and sat down at the table next to me and we both sat there fully immersed in our books. When we got our coffee and dessert, we put our books down and began to indulge in the goodness.
I can’t remember who broke the ice first, but we started talking about how good the dessert was that we were both eating. That one comment led to an hour-long conversation of us getting to know each other and how we both ended up living in Chicago. During our conversation, Jesi, my new friend, mentioned her church a couple of times here and there. I told Jesi how I was longing to find a church, and then began asking her questions about her church. Where was it located, what was it like, and so on. She gave me the church’s business card and we exchanged contact information. I remember feeling really happy while talking to Jesi and excited to go to this church and check it out.
I called Jesi that Saturday night and made plans to meet her at Church in the City the next morning. I went to the church and felt a little nervous at first since I didn’t really know anyone. Everyone was so friendly and made me feel welcomed. I went back the next week and the one after that. I started going to a “small group” to meet more members of the church and to get involved as much as possible. Needless to say, I’ve been going to Church in the City for almost three years and have a place where I can call home. From all of this, I look back at what an amazing thing God did for me, and how my prayer was answered!

You may remember Mel’s testimony a few weeks ago where she met someone in a coffee shop who invited her to church and answered her prayers for family and friendship. That someone was Miss Brittany, the instigator of both of these interactions at said coffee shop. How awesome to watch these women become part of a family after a season of being lonesome urban dwellers, and through something so simple and every day as going for coffee. God, we pray for more of these interactions this week!

March 18, 2011

A Friend in Japan

Many of you, including myself, are probably wondering what is the best way to respond to the tragedy that hit Japan last week. I’ve been reflecting on Proverbs 18:10; “The name of the Lord is a fortified tower. The righteous run to it and they are safe”, and praying that this verse would be the testimony of many in Japan at this time. I suggest that our greatest response is to call on the name of the Lord on behalf of the Japanese nation. What follows is an excerpt of an email from Joanie’s friend who has family in Japan. She outlines some very practical things that we can be praying for…
– Steve

Hello, dear sisters and brothers in Christ.

Thank you so much to those who asked me about my family for your love and prayers.

First of all, my family in Saitama and Chiba are fine. I got through to both my niece and my brother.

However, people in Japan are still suffering:

# of People still not accounted for: Still tens of thousands of people

Official death toll : 1,597 as of this afternoon our time (expected to raise over 10,000)

# of people stranded in buildings where rescue teams can’t get to: 8400 people (In Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima Prefectures.)

# of people exposed to radiation: 190

# of evacuation centers in 5 prefectures hit by Tsunami: 2415 evacuation centers, 360, 000 people

# of households w/o power: 4.5 mil (Areas not directly affected will also take turns for brown-outs)

The country’s capitol, the major center for businesses and economy has not gone back to any normalcy due to power failures, disrupted transportations etc. Food and water shortage due to disrupted distributions.

I have just come home from a prayer meeting with local Japanese believers.

We covet your prayers for the Japanese people.

Some people are not as interested in helping because of the notion that Japan is a developed country, weakened but still one of the strongest economy, etc.

But Japan has been suffering from bad economy for a long time, hit by natural disasters – Many Japanese live without hope, many young people with depression, business people committing suicide etc…and now this. There are only 1% or so Christians in Japan (some say 3% now). Most people either don’t have any religion, or just cultural Buddhist, Shintoist and Pagan.

Aside from prayers for our families, we have specific prayer requests:

1)    People in isolated areas – the disaster hit area is cold. For their food, water and warmth. Pray for relief and comfort.

2)    Pray for people near the nuclear power plant. Pray that meltdown will be averted completely.

3)    Pray for children all over Japan. Even kids in relatively unscathed part of Japan are very afraid – my friend’s child will not go outside of her home anymore.

4)    Pray for missionaries, Christian volunteers to go to Japan to spread the Gospel through disaster relief. (Many came to Christ after WW2 when Gen MacArthur brought missionaries – this disaster is compared to peril after WW2)

5)    Pray against cult (some people started to spread rumors)

6)    Pray for Christians and missionaries in Japan that we have not been able to confirm their safety. Especially for the missionary family Joel Lovestrand and his wife Seiko, children Akari and Leo. They serve at a church in Sendai (Miyagi Pref)

7)    One of our local Japanese believer who go to Calvary (Mr. Shinoda) is going back to Japan to help his elderly mom. Protection over him and pray that he will bring love of Jesus throughout his trip to Japan.(he leaves on Tuesday).

8)    Mr. Shinoda’s wife do online chat through Bible Broadcast Network’s web site. Pray protection over her as she is starting to feel overwhelmed by sadness.

9)    Personally, please continue to pray for my family who live 15 miles away from the burning oil refinery.(they are safe).

10)  This one is an additional request from another believer in Japan: “The govt requested our company to go to the nuke plant. 10 or so people from the office including my brother and my uncle are going to Fukushima. This is a very dangerous assignment. They are to replace cables at the #4 reactor that is in severe trouble right now. Please pray that they will be able to complete the task at hand safely, and pray for the peace and comfort for their families. This is a very important task. It is said to help the cooling system to perform normally. We need your prayers.”

March 16, 2011

Healing Testimony (Val)

Got any doubts? Me too! But guess what, God’s kingdom is coming anyway! Thank you, Val, for sharing this wonder-full and honest testimony. It was such an encouragement to me.

Healing Testimony – February 21, 2011

I’ve had problems with my right leg most of my life, and over the past couple of years the pain has gotten worse, settling in my lower back and along my sciatic nerve.

About four months ago, Gerry Ching gave a testimony about being healed. He’d been having pain in his lower back and sciatic nerve as well. It turned out that one of his legs was shorter than the other, and when the Equip group at the Whiteley’s prayed for him, it grew and the pain went away. As I listened, I had the sense that perhaps I had the same problem.

While I had no doubt at all that Gerry’s story was true, I was still a bit skeptical. I came up in the ‘70s during the Jesus movement when it seemed that every other person was healed of either a short leg or short arm, and I knew from experience that those healings are very easy to fake. Therefore, even though I suspected that it was the Holy Spirit telling me that I shared this “short leg syndrome”, I didn’t tell anyone, ever.

At last Sunday’s Equip meeting, again at the Whiteley’s, three of us asked for prayer for lower back and leg pain. We broke into groups, and I was surrounded by Nancy, Monica and Janelle. Although the short leg possibility immediately came to mind, I decided not to say anything, telling God that if this was the problem, he would have to reveal it to one of them.

As they lay hands on my back and right hip, I clearly felt the power of God moving though my body. However, each time I tested my leg, by “marching”, I felt pain. Finally Nancy looked at me and said, “Have you ever had your legs measured?” Bingo! Right then I thought, “Here we go God!” I sat down in a chair, positioned my spine against the back, and stuck out my legs. Sure enough, all three of the women said my right leg was shorter than the left.

With my eyes closed and Nancy kneeling in front of me, my feet in her hands, Monica started to pray, commanding my leg to grow. The instant she spoke I felt a strange pull in my leg, and I’ll be honest – I was really surprised! My eyes flew open at the same time I suddenly slipped forward in my chair. Nancy had the same look of amazement in her eyes, and asked if I had moved myself forward. Since I had just silently asked myself the same question, I knew the answer was no. Something had happened in my leg, and I didn’t do it! Nancy asked me to stand and march again, and this time there was no pain. We measured, and sure enough, both legs were the same length.

What really gets me, the real evidence of God’s goodness and love, is that he did the miracle in my body when I still had doubts. He taught me long ago that it’s okay to say, like the father in scripture, “I believe, help my unbelief!” Last summer I experienced the healing of two abscesses in my teeth at a time when I knew in my head but not necessarily my heart that he would heal me. In his wonderful mercy and grace he is showing me that he is willing and able to work through our mixed feelings. Praise God, he is wonderful, and I am healed!


March 2, 2011

Fearless, Shahbaz Bhatti.

Shahbaz Bhatti is a follower of Jesus who held a political position in Pakistan serving minorities (i.e. Christians). He was assassinated today for his position against Muslim extremist laws (Read more here). Bhatti was the only Christian serving in the Pakistani Cabinet. This video is an interview with him explaining the threats he had received and his declaration that we was willing to die to defend his Christian brothers and sisters. It reminded me of 1 John 4:18:

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

I want to testify on his behalf of the fearless love that knowing Christ will give you. He knew that in Christ, he was free from all punishment, and that abundant life was his. Therefore, why not live it fully, drink it to the dregs and love to the full extent- willingness to lay down his life. Shahbaz Bhatti was not asking for his life to be taken. It was just that it didn’t matter because he had already given it to Jesus.

Let’s love each other to the fullest!



March 1, 2011

Foreclosed Doors Opened

This is something that has been in the making for the last two years.  We moved into our house two years ago in May 2009.  The reason we were looking to move was God had added Raine to our family!  We needed a bigger place to accommodate a family of four.  Vanessa found our large single family house on Craigslist and we looked at the house that same day.  The leasing agent who showed us our house also wanted to show us a townhouse, which sits right across from Smith’s Park.  However, for some reason, we felt strongly drawn to our house.

There was a twist to our house.  We found out it was under foreclosure, the owner was trying to work with the bank about refinancing the current mortgage, prior to us moving into the house.  Even with that knowledge, we still felt at peace about renting the house.  Shortly after we moved in, I specifically remember sharing with Vanessa that I felt God wanted us to have this house.  I only made this point as we are not gullible regarding the foreclosure/mortgage process because we have had mortgages ourselves.

The first summer (2009) in our new house was an incredible blessing for not only our family, but also for our friends and families with kids.  We have a generous backyard and were able to use it for many different activities:  we had a blowup pool with a slide for families at CITC who have kids to enjoy the summer days, we hosted engagements, birthday parties, men’s get togethers, parties, grilling in the backyard, CITC’s first chili cook-off, and many other events.  The generous space within the house also allowed us to act as CITC’s storage room.

However, after the first 6 months at our new house, we found out the owner was keeping all the rent money we had been paying him.  He had not been paying his mortgage since January 2008 or trying to refinance his loan with the bank.  In fact, he was trying to get the bank to do a short sale with one of his friends/relatives so they could purchase our house at a deeply discounted price.  Needless to say, we felt taken advantaged of.  Without going into all the details, we decided to stop paying rent until he could ensure us that the bank wouldn’t evict us at a moment’s notice.  This went on for several frustrating months until I decided to bring this up to my fellow elders.  I wanted to be accountable with the men who together lead CITC.  I submitted the situation to them and they suggested that my agreement was with the owner of the house, and not with the bank.  I followed their suggestion and wrote a large check for all the months of withheld rent and continued with our lease agreement.

Despite all the conflicts with the owner, we still made an agreement to resign the lease in May 2010.  If you are reading this, it probably doesn’t make any sense to you as anyone with a little common sense would move out immediately.   However, we always remembered what God had spoken to us about this house and wanted to hold firm on His promise.  We didn’t want to worry about why certain things had happened or how it would end.  We just believed in His promise and had faith that He would make it happen.  We continued to walk into the callings He had for us and trusted in God to fulfill His promise.

To make a long story short, roughly three months ago the owner mentioned to us that the house was available again for short sale.  Apparently, the previous “deeply discounted” offer from his friend/relative didn’t get approved by the bank.  He needed to re-list the house and make it available to everyone.  I then told him that I would be interested in making an offer.  As far as I know, our offer, which was almost as “deeply discounted” as the previous offer, was the only one made and presented to the bank.  We found out right before Thanksgiving the bank had approved our offer.  We closed on our house on January 18th, 2011.

I wanted to share this story as a testimony of God’s promise and His incredible faithfulness.  He had promised us our house and He delivered.  In all honesty, there were many times we wanted to move and not put our two young children in a very illogical situation.  The only reason that we stayed was God’s promise.  He had spoken that the house will be ours and it has come to past.  This is now our house!  You may have noticed I had used the reference “our house” even when we were renting it.  It’s because I wanted to stress the importance of God’s promise.  Before His promise is fulfilled, we are to live as it has already been done.


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