Looking Back – Looking Forward: A Year With Jesus

A Year with Jesus

In the midst of turbulent times, the relevance of a solid foundation to build on is all the more clear.  In Luke 6:47-49, Jesus talks about hearing and acting on his words, and so through this year, we are especially focusing on what it means to walk with Jesus today.

We’re in new times, uncharted territory – but God’s Spirit and mission are the same, and lessons from the past can remind us of a faithful present.

What follows is the first of a series of articles that highlight connections between our ministry over the years and the opportunities, challenges and blessings before us today.  We look back, not to relive the past or try to re-create it, but to see how God’s Holy Spirit continues to lead us in adapting and sharing the light of the Gospel embodied into the world.

Helping Refugees

1975 – FBC assisted with three relocated Vietnamese families however there isn’t much detail as to what FBC did. We gave household items and some financial assistance but since those involved in this are no longer with us, not sure just how much of a relationship FBC offered these families.

1988 – Church World Service sent out a request for local churches to adopt Ethiopian families. FBC entered into a sponsorship agreement signed by Vickie Mahrt and Beverly Jennings. Solomon Belay and Abeba Kassie arrived on April 15, 1989. Solomon had been tried and jailed as a political prisoner. He and his wife Abeba escaped and walked for three months to Sudan where they became refugees. FBC helped them into the Habitat program and in 1993 Solomon and Abeba moved into a Habitat house that FBC assisted in building and funding.

Solomon found work and attended school eventually graduating from the University of Illinois with a general engineering degree. Abeba found work and over the 10 years they lived here they had three children. They moved to the Chicago area when Solomon graduated and was offered a position with a Chicago firm. Solomon became a US citizen in October 1995 and Ababa several years later.

Interesting tidbit. When they learned they were expecting their first child, it was discovered in the rush to escape Ethiopia they left one very important paper behind – their marriage certificate. FBC hosted a wedding complete with dress, flowers, and reception in December 1989 for them.

Now as FBC helps the three men from Afghanistan, we continue welcoming strangers into our midst AND we strengthen our friendships with other churches, religions, and agencies in the community.

Growth: Programing or Relationships?

In 1988 FBC held a Visioning Seminar. During the day long event, the comment was made, “We offer all sorts of programs and no one but ourselves attend.” The facilitator responded that churches can offer programs, but it’s the relationships that are nurtured between people that will keep God and Jesus in the world, and grow the church.

The board studied “Canoeing the Mountains” in 2019 and one of the take away messages from studying the book was: Build relationships outside your walls. The church is not a building; it is how each of you live out your lives sharing the love and grace God offers.

As we continue our year with Jesus, we welcome the strangers in our midst and continue to develop relationships with everyone we meet.

Becky Strack

February 2022