Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Transform MidAtlantic Leadership Conference Recap

Grace Point - Our Host Church
“Transform MidAtlantic”, our Converge MidAtlantic Leadership Conference for 2013 is behind us, but the impact of this gathering will remain for months and years to come!  God’s Spirit moved in very clear and powerful ways at Grace Point in Newtown, PA, June 19-21 as leaders from across our MidAtlantic region gathered together for an incredible experience!

180 pastors and leaders from 55 churches came together.  The weather was beautiful!  The hospitality from Grace Point was over the top!  The worship was powerful and inspirational.  The food and
Converge Cup Golf Event
fellowship was absolutely amazing!  The learning that took place in the Breakouts and Plenary sessions was outstanding! But most importantly, God moved in our midst, and for that we are most grateful.

Seeing powerful stories of transformation was moving and very encouraging; stories of physical and spiritual healing, stories of deliverance from addictions, stories of churches growing rapidly before our very eyes, stories of lives and marriages being transformed on a professional football team.  All of these and more, spoke of God’s
Shane Claiborne "The Simple Way"
power to change lives and communities all around us!

Hearing the proclamation of God’s Word through Dr. Eric Mason as he spoke on how the Gospel is incarnated through our pain and suffering, was very moving.  Hearing Dr. Dwight Perry teach about embracing diversity and the hard work that this involves, was needed and helpful.  Hearing Shane Claiborne, in his simple and disarming style challenge us powerfully to live out the gospel in ways and places where it is countercultural and involves resistance from the status quo, was so motivating and convicting.  Hearing Dr. Tom Nebel, share the
Philadelphia Vietnamese
Christian Fellowship
vision of Converge church planting for “one more day, one more place, one more story” knowing that the deserts in our journey cannot and will not hold back the work of Christ, was so encouraging.  And hearing Pastor Scott Ridout challenge us to live out generosity in concrete ways in our personal lives and as churches, was so timely and helpful.  Yes, through these servants, God spoke and moved in our midst.

Feedback from many of the Breakout sessions was very positive! Nearly 80 leaders traveled into the urban areas of Philadelphia on Friday morning to learn about and experience ministry in very hard and very needy places.  Coz Crosscombe, Eric Mason and his team, and Shane Claiborne at the Simple Way community, all shared how
Traveling to Urban Philadelphia
transformation is happening in these places through God’s Spirit residing in His people.  On-site Breakouts were amazing as well, including Pastor Ron Crawford and Richard Cohen’s session regarding “Homosexuality: Born or Bred”.  Participants were moved to tears and filled with emotion as they were encountered with the challenge to love people in the name of Jesus, and to see again how God transforms people in powerful ways. 

Other sessions that many spoke about included: Pastor Jenkins’ session on “Making Pastoring Personal”, Dan Nold’s session on
A Master Potter
Symbol of Transformation
“Multi-site expansion”, Johnny Parker’s session on “How to Manage the Speed of Your Soul”, Dr. Doug Fagerstrom’s session on “Building Extraordinary Volunteers”, Pastor Chris McCloskey’s session on “Developing Caring Ministries in the church”, Dan and Tonya White’s session on “Missional church”, Dr. Ralph Gustafson’s session on “Reaching Millennials”, to mention but a few.

Three Pre-Conference sessions were also well attended and were very instructive!  Ivan and Susan Veldhuizen interacted with global mission leaders from some of our MidAtlantic churches, resourcing them and providing a venue for these leaders to share best practices together.  Scott Ridout taught for 6 hours on how to build a generosity culture in the local church.  And Tom Nebel offered training on how to effectively coach other leaders, helping them to
succeed and to excel in their leadership and ministries.

Other highlights of God moving in our midst and in our region included:

·        The welcoming of 6 churches into the MidAtlantic network
·        Introducing and praying for 5 new church planting couples who have been sent out this past year
·        The unanimous reaffirmation of our Converge MidAtlantic Executive Minister for an additional 4 year term
·        The public introduction of a new vision for church planting across our region, called “Shaping the Future”, and a report that $162,000 has already been committed toward our goal of $500,000 in new funds for church planting over the next three years!
·        Stories of significant spiritual transformation in Ukraine through 10 plus years of partnering with our Ukrainian brothers and sisters
·        The celebration of God’s provision for Converge MidAtlantic ministries this past year, and the adoption of combined budgets for the coming year totaling $880,000.
·        Opportunities to hear of God working through some of our partners such as Bethel University and Seminary, Cornerstone Fund, and across Converge Worldwide.

In the end, it seems as though God is challenging our leaders and churches to remain open to the work of the Spirit in our midst.  And God is challenging us to continue to find ways to be his vessels to bring about transformation in every community he calls us to serve. I love Paul’s words in II Cor. 3, where he says: “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit”.

Brothers in Christ
May God’s work of transformation continue in each of us in the days ahead!

Warmly in Christ,

Dan Peterson, Executive Minister
Converge MidAtlantic

Friday, May 24, 2013

Spiritual Transformation in Ukraine

My recent trip to Ukraine in mid April of this year was one of the most rewarding trips I can recall in a long long time!  No, I didn’t preach to thousands of people, nor did I have the opportunity to give away a boatload of money to needy churches or orphanages.  It was a relatively uneventful trip with only 3 of us sharing in this journey.  What made the trip rewarding, however, was the picture God gave me of the ministry fruit from our Converge MidAtlantic partnership in Ukraine over the past 10 plus years!  It was absolutely thrilling!

It started out with the special opportunity to preach on a Sunday in April at the Orghiv Church, a larger village outside of the main city of Rivne, Ukraine.  The Orghiv Church is the name of the church that our Old North Church in Canfield, OH has been sistering with for the past 10 plus years.  I saw the beautiful church facility that Old North helped to build.  I saw the young adults leading worship and children’s ministry, leaders that Old North has helped train.  The church was packed on Sunday, mostly young adults and young families.  Old North’s partnership with Pastor Nick and Olga has literally put this church on the map in its community, and it has raised up some solid young leaders for work in God’s harvest!  What a blessing to see!

Mlnyv is the name of the town and the church where Lakewood Baptist in Lakewood, NY has partnered over the past 10 plus years. Lakewood’s involvement has been primarily in leading and more recently in supporting the church’s summer adventure camps with children and youth.  Teams from Lakewood came over every year for the first 6 years, and in recent years, funds and personal encouragement continued for these summer camps.  When Pastor Dan Cook and Youth Pastor Tim Sullivan visited the Mlnyv Church this Spring, they were blown away to see the fruit from these adventure camps.  The kids who were in these camps 8, 9, 10 years ago, are now leaders in the camps that will be held this summer. Dan and Tim were literally in tears as they heard the stories of how these early adventure camps had made such on impact on these kids’ lives. The Mlynv Church is alive and well, due in some measure to the strong partnership with Lakewood Baptist.  How cool!

While I was riding in the van with Ukrainian leader, Michael Ilyuk, I asked him if he could give me his perspective on the fruit from the partnership that First Baptist Church of Glenarden has had with the Dubrovitsa Church, located in a village in northwestern Ukraine.  His eyes and heart lit up! He shared with me how this partnership has helped in the planting of other new churches in nearby villages, as the First Baptist teams have helped them touch these communities through summer evangelism and camps. Michael talked about the spiritual growth in this church, revolving around learning about other cultures and ways of worship.  When I arrived back in the U.S., I spoke with one of the leaders from First Baptist and I learned about more of the results from this partnership. I was reminded that the church facility has been totally upgraded, including construction of restroom facilities, a complete kitchen, provisions for audiovisual equipment, lighting, a baptismal pool, air conditioning, new chairs in the sanctuary, computer equipment, and interior painting!  Of course, I knew about Tania Martin who now serves full time in Ukraine as a Converge missionary, because of this sistering partnership.  Praise God for what He has and is still doing!

Later, after returning home, I also spoke with one leader from our Berean Church in Mansfield, OH which has partnered with Grace Baptist Church in the city of Brovary, Ukraine.  Again, I was blown away!  Over 15 years of partnering together has seen Grace Baptist Church grow from a congregation of 30, mostly older women, to a thriving congregation of 150 with many young families with chirdren & youth. The church facility was a one room church building in '96 and today is a 3 floor, 18 room, and 10,000 square foot sanctuary. In '96 they had one unpaid pastor and now they have 3 pastors. Children’s Adventure Camps have grown from 98 children to 400 children, ages 4-13. In '96 the church did not have any Sunday School and now they have Sunday School for all ages. The church is making meaningful  connections with many older teens, university students, and young professionals outside of the church as a result of the ESL classes that Berean has offered.  In addition to all of this, sistering in Ukraine has greatly impacted the Berean’s view of mission ministry. The church has seen interest and funding grow considerably over these years into other fields for short-term mission work. It has opened people’s eyes to the world and to their own community!  What a thrill to hear of this significant spiritual fruit!

Over the past 12 years, my wife, Sandi, and others, have spearheaded ministry and support for a number of the orphanages in western Ukraine.  We have partnered with one key church (Grace Church of Rivne) in its involvement in trying to disciple kids from some of the orphanages.  Through our Mercy Ministries fund, we have also helped support several “Christian foster homes” for orphans that are booted out of the orphanages when they are 18 years old.  Recently, we heard some of the stories of some of the kids we worked with in these early years.  Several have gone to Bible College and Seminary!  Some are now serving as Pastors in Ukrainian churches.  At least one is a missionary in another country.  What a thrill to see and hear of the fruit from our involvement with these forgotten people!

This trip to Ukraine in April was my 23rd trip to Ukraine!  At times, I have wondered if the time and energy and money were really worth it.  This trip was one of those special confirmations from God.  Yes, significant spiritual transformation is happening through our partnership and involvement in Ukraine!

Plans are in place to continue the Love Lift Ukraine ministry with a Vision Trip planned for the summer of 2013, and another trip planned for the summer of 2014.  If you are interested in exploring involvement in this ministry, contact our Converge MidAtlantic office anytime!

With gratitude,

Dan Peterson
Converge MidAtlantic