Pray for the Shoeboxes

by Pamela Blankenship


Do you know that in only 84 days we will be celebrating Christmas? Christmas! In 84 days! The thought of Christmas may bring about a variety of feelings – excitement, panic, peace, hope, joy. Certainly, as a mother with a child who has already begun a daily countdown, for me, the thought of Christmas brings a bit of panic and pressure upon my shoulders, but, also, excitement. Definitely excitement. Each year about this time, we start talking about and making plans for Operation Christmas Child (OCC).


Zion’s Sunday School – ages preschool through 12th Grade – have been coming together each year for more than 5 years to pack shoeboxes for this special mission. Hopefully, you are familiar with OCC, but maybe you’re not. OCC is a ministry that delivers shoeboxes filled with gifts for children around the world. Along with the shoeboxes children will hear the message of Jesus and His love for them. Each year, shoeboxes are packed with items donated by the people of our congregation. Prior to Pack Day, donations are sorted, boxes are built, labels are made. On Pack Day, children come together, watch a video about the kids who will receive the shoeboxes, pray together and pack, pack, pack.


You may be thinking, “Why are we being asked to give donations for another collection? Why are WE doing this?”. Well, it’s a mission that I’m passionate about for several reasons…

First, when I was acting Sunday School Superintendent I searched for ways that the Sunday School children could be involved in volunteering, sharing Jesus or helping others, I found there were not a lot of opportunities for young children. But, packing a shoebox (and sharing Jesus with kids their age from around the world) was something they could do!


Second, our kids are passionate about this event! One year, when planning started too late, we had several discussions about whether we should continue with OCC. My oldest daughter was adamant that we could not give up on this mission. At the time, I offered that we, as a family, could still each pack a shoebox, but she was unrelenting in her belief that we, as a church, as a Sunday School, should come together to pack shoeboxes. She had and still has a great passion for this mission.


And, most importantly, we can share Jesus with children around the world. We can reach so many more by coming together with OCC. As someone who loves to travel and is always happy to plan a trip to just about anywhere, I can say with some level of certainty that I will never travel to Ukraine, Mongolia or Uganda. How could I share Jesus with someone in one of these locations? Operation Christmas Child is a way that I can do that. And, let me be clear, I do not want to take credit for this mission. This is God’s mission, God’s reach, God’s plan. We are just his instruments.


Our Pack Day this year is November 3rd. Donations are being accepted now and can be dropped off in the Atrium by October 27th. This year we are in need of toys, school supplies, accessories and $9 shipping costs.


Whether you make a donation or not, please pray for this mission and our efforts with it. I know it sounds weird, but each year on Pack Day we pray for the shoeboxes. We pray that each box will be filled with items that are needed by the child who receives it. We pray for the journey of the shoebox and all individuals who will have a part in getting the shoebox to a child. We pray that the shoebox will be a tool in a child hearing God’s message. Please join us in prayer.


Growing Your Kids’ Spiritual Health

by Chris Graves
Parents want their kids to be healthy.  We all know how to help them be physically healthy — feed them healthy foods, encourage them to be active, get them to bed at a reasonable hour, etc.
Spiritual health is important, too.  In fact, the Bible says that spiritual health is even more important than bodily health!  Look up 1 Timothy 4:6-10 to see why.
In addition, spiritual health is well-known to be linked with mental health.  As spiritual health increases, often so does mental health.
Parents have the greatest influence over their kids’ spiritual health.  Sunday School is one way you can help your kids to be spiritually healthy.  Coming to Sunday School feeds them a healthy diet of God’s Word, teaches them to prioritize loving and worshiping God over everything else, introduces them to friends at church as they learn with other kids, and connects them with adults who love them and want to show them how much Jesus loves them.  We are even starting a new weekly Sunday School newsletter so that you will know everything your child is learning and doing in Sunday School.
Because parents are so important, we want to feed you spiritually, too!  Zion has an adult class that is designed for everyone, whether you know very little about the Bible or whether you are a Bible scholar.  And it’s a great opportunity to meet other people and make friends at church for yourself!  The adult class meets at the same time as Sunday School, 9:45 a.m.

Regular Sunday School begins September 15!  Kids preschool through grade 8 will be studying Bible stories from the Old Testament in the first half of the year.  The series starts with the account of God creating the world and then the kids will continue to learn about Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, Rachel and many more people in the Bible.  The second half of the year they will switch to the New Testament and learn many accounts from the life of Jesus.  The high school youth still study the Fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).  This is a study written by Halle Randall, our Bible class teacher!  When we have the Holy Spirit in our lives, our lives look different from everybody else’s.  Our lives bear fruit like God intended!  In this study, high schoolers will learn more about what a godly life really looks like.


If I can help you get connected or answer any questions, please let me know!


Why Are We Talking So Much About Vision?

by Pastor Jason
Vision. It’s a word that I’ve been talking a lot about here lately. A group met for its formulation, some dollars have been designated toward it, some meetings have unveiled parts of the movement, and there will soon be two sermon-series, two bible studies, and much prayer – all toward our vision together. But why are we talking so much about vision?


Well, I could answer that in several ways (and I want to give some reasons nearer the end of this article), but first a story. Zion was blessed a while back with some coffee equipment. It was commercial grade, only lightly used, and moth-balled for a time. Yet through the work of the trustees, their improvised tests, the running of new electrical line, and a thorough cleaning… we now have a new coffee maker in what is often called the MMC Kitchen. Now as impressive as that all is, there was one thing it was missing: directions. Yeah, I know it’s a coffee-maker, you put water in here and coffee comes out there, but wait… its way more than that. This is a commercial grade device. It has buttons and brew options and the ability to change the size of the carafe that’s filled with a selectable temperature of water that’s precisely heated, etc., etc. This isn’t your run-of-mill brewer. Only one problem: no instructions. So, (thanks to the web-age) instructions were downloaded and read (yes, I do that on occasion) and – wow – you should see what it can do.


Vision. It’s not quite as crude as downloaded instructions, but as tough as it would be to operate a technically able coffee maker without directions – imagine trying to have Zion move forward and become all that God would have her to be without direction. That’s what vision is: direction. A well-informed and patiently researched by prayer and discernment based – direction. Zion needed that. Why?


Well, first off, it didn’t have one. Thoughtful attempts have been made in the past, but as of today none have stuck. What could the next year look like? Three years? Five years? Ten years? Certainly, inertia has something to say about this, but a change was needed, in my opinion. A change that would help us…


  • Look at what some would call missional communities. These are small group-like opportunities where the bible is studied, people are known and cared for, loving accountability is nurtured, and missional opportunities by the group are cultivated. Mission events in the congregation or outside. Mission targeted in a certain direction. Just imagine, if we could have 5 missional communities (or whatever they’ll be called here) cultivating five different missional relationships, engaging the community in five different ways, and glorifying God through it all. If done well, these could even be a really easy first-step for people to come into contact with Jesus incarnated in the many places we live and work and in the many, unique ways we connect with life.


  • Come together in fellowship and mission as a congregation. One-off events are good, but a relationship allows for a level of care that a one-off event just can’t do. As well, divisions are so easily made in any large group along lines such as age, address, achievement, and the like. Mass events allow the body of Christ at Zion to be together. Just imagine first service and late service people serving together. Women’s Guild and Trustees working together. New babies and 90+ year-olds serving in families as a family of faith – together. These events could leverage our whole congregation’s passion for Christ and allow us to serve together in ways that impact our community and beyond. And just imagine what that would do for the mental, physical, and relational well-being of our community. How would the healing of Christ make a spiritual and whole-life difference?


  • Examine ways that we can maintain the blessings of our current ministry while being aggressive to pay down our current debt load. Around 16 years ago, Zion decided to build an addition; a beautiful addition. And now about 16 years later we are about halfway through the loan and still around one million dollars in debt. Just imagine if we didn’t have that to be concerned with. Just imagine if we could pay that down faster than the next 14 years. Just imagine handing the ministry off to the next generation without that to worry about. Just imagine…


Hmmm, just imagine… if growth in discipleship and outreach flourished on multiple levels and in multiple ways. Just imagine if the money and time we spent on our building was matched (or even exceeded by) the money and time spent on mission. Just imagine if we had a clear direction that allowed for diversity and promoted unity. Just imagine the church not just with a downloaded set of directions… but a uniquely shaped, God-given direction.


Dearest God give us the ability to have such a vision… and then allow us all the ability to have a prayerful and open mind and heart so we can stand shoulder-to-shoulder in this movement. Yes, the church is bound to look different, but together it will be a church where the people make up the body around the One head that is Christ. A church that is and ever becomes one: Taking the cross of grace and peace…


To God alone be the glory!