Wednesday, December 31, 2008

January Update

January 1, 2009

Dear Family and Friends,

One afternoon at World Impact the doorbell rang and Andrew and I saw two unexpected, smiling faces through the glass door. I was so excited to see Amanda and Tonya as I ran out to meet them. These two girls had regularly attended World Impact’s Children’s Program two years ago, then we were told that their family would soon be moving but they did not know when, and then one day they were just gone. No one had heard from them since they left—not an uncommon occurrence with the families we work with.

It can be a grueling aspect of the ministry—building relationships, emotionally investing, and then people are gone. Our neighborhood is filled with the memories of these people, and there are some days that the weight of their lives and the unknown breaks my heart. We pray that the words and love we shared with them will have a lasting impact, even if we do not get to see the results.

It was with these thoughts that I rushed out to meet Amanda and Tonya and hugged them tight. They were back in the neighborhood, and they had run up to the World Impact to see if we were still here. They were so excited to stay for our Jr. High Program that day and they have come regularly ever since.

Tuesdays they come with the other youth for games and a Bible Lesson. We recently finished a series on what it really means to follow Christ. Then on Thursdays, Amanda and Tonya come to join in our tutoring program, where I have created lessons for our youth that encourage learning and expose them to concepts and skills they do not receive in class. You would be shocked by the poor reading comprehension of our Jr. High youth and by their limited knowledge base.

Occasionally we host fun activities for the youth and on a recent Friday night we held a Movie Night. Despite the cold, wet night Amanda and six other youth came for the event (pictured to the right). Afterwards, Andrew and I drove the students home so they would not have to walk home in the dark.

Amanda gave directions to her home and when the van finally reached her house, we were shocked at how far this young girl had walked to participate in the program. Amanda and Tonya’s house stood eight blocks away from the ministry center, through a long stretch of the neighborhood that is mostly abandoned—certainly not a place for two young seventh grade girls to walk alone.

Andrew and I looked at each other as we pulled up to their rundown house feeling at once joy and heartache. They had been so affected by the love and commitment of our staff that they did not think twice about the distance, the rain, or the night. Instead, they come each week to be embraced by us and to hear the never-changing message of the love of Christ. We rejoice that God has given us this second opportunity to build relationships with these youth and we cherish it as a rare and special gift. Please pray for these youth. Jr. High is such a difficult period made even more difficult for our youth because of instability, broken families and inadequate education. We greatly appreciate each one of you and pray that God blesses you richly this year!

For His Kingdom, Andrew & Adria Medlen

Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas Fun

Andrew and Jason passed out over 300 flyers but on Saturday morning we were looking out at the cold gray sky and staring out the glass doors trying to will kids to show up. one. Our Christmas Party was scheduled to start at 10am and we had 10 volunteers prepped and ready to send the next few hours with kids. The nature of programs here in the city is full of the unknown. We just never know if we'll have 1 or 50! We were biting our nails that it wouldn't be 1!

And then a mother and her 4 children rang the bell and then 4 more kids showed up. And then the bell started ringing for the next 3 hours! We had almost 40 kids attend and about 10 adults accompany them! It was our best attended Christmas party since I've (Adria) been here! They played games, decorated cookies, made Christmas cards, heard the Christmas story, and each opened a gift. It was a good day.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

December Update

December 1, 2008

Dear Team,

“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart” (Galatians 6:9).

Eight years ago I (Andrew) moved to St. Louis to do ministry with World Impact. One of the first people I met when I came to St. Louis was a teenager named James who attended a youth group run by World Impact. I was instantly drawn to James because I could see that this young man carried a heavy load of hurt and pain. I was soon informed by someone on staff that James had lost his mother to illness. He was the eldest of two boys, did not have a father figure in his life, and he lived with his grandmother. After I heard about his home life, my heart instantly broke for James.

I tried to build a relationship with James, but he was a very closed-off young man. After many difficult attempts to talk to him, he finally said a few words. Over time he began to open up to me, and we started to develop a more open relationship. James consistently attended youth group, and when he got into high school, he started to volunteer during the summer in our kids’ program. James went on to graduate from high school, and I have been meeting with him over the last couple of years in a mentoring relationship. Adria and I have had him over to our house, and he even has come to view Adria as an older sister from whom he can ask advice.

Even though he was involved with church and open to talking with me, James struggled with accepting Christ as the answer to so many of the questions in his life. He has struggled with relationships with girls and with finding a steady job. He has tried alcohol and drugs to find an answer to his problems. He struggles with depression, and recently he drank a six-pack of beer and a gallon of vodka. James passed out and woke up in the emergency room as he went in and out of consciousness. He was experiencing alcohol poisoning, and the doctor said that if he would have consumed any more alcohol, he would have died.

Shortly after that, I asked James when we could get together to talk. The next day he walked into my office and said he was ready. I asked him just exactly what he was ready for, and he said that he was tired of doing things his way and was ready to accept Christ into his life. At first I was a little skeptical given his history, but after a few more questions to make sure he was ready, James prayed and asked Christ into his heart.

I will admit that at times I have lost heart and wondered if James would ever see his need for a Savior. I have met with him for years, but he had not made the choice to follow Christ until now. I am thankful for Galatians 6:9 and how God shows this verse to be very true in our lives. Thank you for praying for Adria and me as we continue to look for the James’s here in St. Louis.
We hope that you have a very merry Christmas. It is a joy for us to celebrate the birth of Christ this year knowing that there is one more person who now knows life in our Savior.

All for our Risen Savior,

Andrew & Adria Medlen

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Sweet 16

We celebrated Laniecha's 16th birthday this weekend. Andrew and I and Laniecha and Ja'Marion went out to Applebee's to acknowledge this milestone. Both of us were struck with how much she's grown up these past three years. We are praying that the growth will begin to focus more on spiritual development now that she is gaining some stability in the classroom and at home with her son. We also purchased some safety gates for the stairs in their house, as Ja'Marion is almost 9 months and crawling everywhere! Andrew is going to install them tonight. The purchase of those gates were made possible by the support of dear friends and fellow believers who have so graciously taken up Laniecha and Ja'Marion's cause. I am so grateful for their support. Here are a few fun pictures from the day.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Movie Night

Friday night we had a Middle School Movie Night, and despite the fact that it was cold, dark, and rainy we had 7 kids show up. In our current youth group meetings we've been talking a lot about Jesus and our need for salvation, so we watched the movie Narnia with the intention of discussing its parallels to the Gospel message.

Every time I watch that movie through that lens I glean more from it. It is a powerful story (it doesn't hurt that I'm a huge C.S. Lewis fan) and one thing that really stood out to me watching it this time was the theme of "The Body." Peter, Susan, Edmond, and Lucy all want to belong to the epic battle between good and evil. They join a fight that is so much bigger than themselves. And then, throughout, there is a bond of loyalty that runs through those fighting for Aslan. I couldn't help but think about the battle that we as Christians are fighting, a battle that seems almost impossible at times. Often it takes a fellow believer taking a stand beside us and promising to fight with us until the end to bring courage to the fight. And then there are the gifts that Peter, Susan, and Lucy are given: Peter the sword and shield, Susan the bow and arrows and horn, and Lucy the dagger and healing potion. These gifts were used to advance the battle and to care for those they fought with. Likewise, the gifts God gives each of us are to be used in the great Kingdom battle and to care for our fellow believers, the Body of Christ. I don't know if Lewis wrote all of that into the story or not, but one thing I love about literature is that you can interpret different things from the different lenses you view it that way a story never grows old because we are constantly growing and seeing life through different eyes.

It was fun to draw out some of the symbolism from the movie with the kids. They were a little slow catching on at first but then they started to see the parallel between Aslan and Jesus and Edmond and our sinful natures. One of our boys, who is smart and funny, but who rarely seems to be listening with his class-clown ways and disruptive behavior bowled us over with an insight. He said, someone who could represent Edmond is Paul. Andrew asked him how that was, and he answered that Paul used to be a really bad person who hated Christians until he got saved and started doing good. All three of us leaders looked at each other with acknowledgement of the hard battles we have fought with one another to lead these wonderfully, difficult children: he had been listening all summer long when we had talked about Paul several times! And even more, he remembered the story enough to accurately apply it to the interpretation of Narnia!

It was a good night.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

What's in an Index?

Who's Columbus? What's an index? Where is Portugal? These questions are ordinary enough, but they are ones that 6th through 8th graders should have the answers to. Or they should at least be able to find the answer if they don't know them. I am continually horrified by the inadequacy of these children's education.

There is no one person to blame for this, but the devestating fact is that there are thousands of children in our inner-city schools who are being systematically trampled under our mandated standardized testing and poor funding management. The fact is that there are a plethora of reasons for this injustice; it is complicated and messy and it is an issue that when people aren't expereincing it first hand they would rather not be bothered by it.

We don't have the staff or the funds to run a full-scale tutoring program and the fact is that a once-a-week tutoring program is merely a drop in the bucket. So, I decided to try something else instead. Our kids' reading comprehension is dismal, their exposure to the world is limited. I can't teach them everything but perhaps I can help them learn how to learn?

Last week we talked about Ferdinand Magellan and his voyage around the world. I split the kids into two groups and sent them on a scavanger hunt of sorts for information about him and his accomplishments. As we sat around helping them pick out the important details and teaching them how to use an index I saw real excitement on their faces. They all scrambled to pick up their notes and share what they had discovered when the time came. And they even looked fairly interested when I went over the Word of the Day: expedition. I couldn't believe it. One of our young girls who is 15 in the 8th grade and has serious emotional and learning struggles and who often falls into extreme mood swings came through the door and I cringed thinking she would not be able to keep up and cause problems...her face was alight with the victory of learning. She stood proud with her notes during the oral presentation with the rest.

This week we talked a little about Vincent Van Gogh. After a short powerpoint presentation, to which they were mostly paying attention we painted our own Van Gogh paintings. I want to open a little of the world to these kids and give them a few more tools with which they can fight for their future. So far it's been a lot of work for a total of 3 hours, but seeing those kids standing in front of the group eagerly sharing their historical discoveries, or having a good time painting a classic post-impressionist piece of art makes it all worth it.

Please pray for our youth as they struggle with so many things. Pray that first and foremost God will grab hold of their hearts as we share the gospel with them. And secondly, pray for their school and family situations, as the majority of both are leaving them without the tools they need to be succesful in life.

Monday, November 3, 2008

November Update

November 1, 2008

Dear Family and Friends,

An often bantered about cliché is that “Children are our future!” This is of course in many ways very true, but children are not held separate and suspended above the natural progression of time, which builds future experiences upon the past. History, particularly family history, plays an integral part in the determination of how children will live out their future. I would change the emphasis and say “Parents are our future” for it is from parents that children develop a vision of the future, and it is from parents that children inherit the tools with which to create it.

One of the tragic things I have witnessed here in the city is the dominance and cycle of destructive behaviors passed from generation to generation. It has made me all the more aware of the blessings that Godly family and Godly community have been to my life. Without the saving work of Christ, so many of the children Andrew and I work with are destined to failure as they try to scrape out a future with the broken experiences of their lives. Because of this I have become passionate about the need for parents in our community, particularly the mothers, to be given godly and constructive tools for parenting.

It is this passion that led me to approach another missionary on staff, Nancy Phelps, about starting a women’s outreach centered on equipping mothers with these tools. Amazingly, since the birth of her first daughter, Ella, last October she has been feeling many of the same things. And so, in mid September we began our Just For Moms (and me) group. In a few weeks our first session will be over and we will be evaluating where to take the program from there.

The women involved have been so excited for this outlet and we have been able to really wrestle with both universal and cultural parenting issues. It continues to challenge me in ministry and open up new doors in relationships. Please pray for the women in our Just For Moms group, and pray that we are able to reach out to more mothers in the community. Pray also for Nancy and I to have wisdom in the guidance of this group.

Thank you all for your support; your continued prayers and encouragement are greatly felt in our lives. Thank you for allowing us to see first hand the results of your partnership.

Happy Thanksgiving!

For His Kingdom, Andrew & Adria Medlen

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Death of a Car

Yesterday I heard the news that my 2001 Ford Focus would live no longer. This was hard for me to fathom, because I have never had any major problems with my car…until the day it just wouldn’t start. With only about 80,000 miles on the odometer, it should’ve lived much longer. Sure, it has been well loved since I moved to the city: three bashed-out windows, a jacked trunk, and a nice bullet hole above the left rear tire. But I just counted those things as character building experiences for my “first” car. I’m not very automotive-savvy but the guy working on my car said something about a thrown rod, some splintered metal thingy, a huge gash in the block…and well it’s not fixable without completely replacing the engine.

I took the news pretty hard. Andrew said it was my “justice mentality” because it just wasn’t right that my car was dead so young. It doesn’t make sense. I admit there were a few tears shed as the news sank in. I loved my car, it had been good to me, and I had been comfortable with it.

Meanwhile, the guy who pronounced my car as dead was fixing an older stick-shift Escort with over 200,000 miles someone had donated months ago. I hate stick shifts. I mean, I hate them. So, the thought of getting the Escort as a replacement to my beloved Focus added a discontented anger to my sadness. I was mad.

Later that evening I went to a women’s Bible study where we talked about faith. As the women talked about what faith is and where it comes from, the Lord started talking to me about my attitude. The situation played over in my head and I started to be ashamed of my discontented anger. Here I was angry that I was going to have to learn how to drive an old stick-shift, when God had clearly opened a door of provision in the very moment that our need became known. Our study discussed how our faith should only ever be placed in the promises of God, instead of having blind and ignorant faith in something that God could do but that is probably more in line with our desires than His. It was then that God said, Hellooo, Adria, what you need is a car, what you want is to be comfortable and to avoid change. But He didn’t stop there.

I then realized that not only was I getting mad about my wants and not my needs being unmet, but I was also placing some of my identity in having a car that I bought, that was my own possession, and that I thought looked fairly nice. Sometimes being a missionary is a humbling experience, as much of what we use is donated to World Impact and often isn’t pristine, isn’t what I would choose, and wasn’t acquired through any independence on my part. I can’t say that I always enjoy this. However, although Andrew and I don’t always get what we want, God has always made sure that we have what we need…in amazingly obvious and attentive ways. Too often I get spoiled by this care and feel entitled to more.

The death of my car and the Holy Spirit brought this to my attention, and I was very humbled at the sight of my pride and ungratefulness. The truth is, I still went home from the Bible study and cried a little at my loss. And I can’t say that my heart is completely on board with these realizations, but I want it to be. It’s a process and I’m hoping that as I attempt to drive that stupid stick-shift around an empty parking lot somewhere, my heart will attempt to work at a little more Christ-likeness. Perhaps the death of a car will be the birth of greater faith and humility. Not a bad trade off for my 2001 Ford Focus.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Ahh Family...

Some great times recently spent with family...

...there's always time for shopping!

...and sometimes you need a time out.

...Andrew, did you just say that St. Louis was the 2nd best free city in America, again?

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

October Update

October 1, 2008

Dear Family and Friends,

Ministry sometimes feels confined and defined by the meager dollar amounts we are allotted for our program expenditures. There is always something that lies outside of our realistic program plans. Our ministry center is located almost directly across the street from the very large and well funded Herbert Hoover Boys and Girls Club. With ourselves being located in an old YMCA building we have a tiny overlap in Recreational facilities (a gym and rec room, etc). So, when we do a Sports and Recreation program we do it in the shadow of the Boys and Girls Club’s football teams and basketball and cheerleading programs. And when we gather our kids into our beat up ministry vehicles and head off for a field trip, across the street they line a hundred kids and nearly as many staff in matching t-shirts behind several new buses to head out on their day trip. If you compare our money and resources with the Boys and Girls Club we look puny and pathetic in comparison.

Sometimes I am guilty of making this comparison. When looking at our programs I sometimes feel like there is nothing we can do that will be better than the programs they offer. However, this is a grave mistake on my part. Truly, there is no comparison. Albeit sometimes our programs overlap a little in their structure, but our purposes and visions are at their core nothing alike. Someone could argue that there is no point for us to do youth programs since Herbert Hoover can offer bigger and better programs with more staff and more bling. But we are not doing youth programs just to give kids a safe place to hang out after school, or even just to give them new opportunities that they would not otherwise have. Now, do not get me wrong, I have great appreciation for what Herbert Hoover Boys and Girls Club is doing for families in our neighborhood and what they do needs to be done, but it is not what God has called us to do here. Our facilities and programs are not our primary goal. They are merely tools we use to invest in the lives of families in our neighborhood in the hopes of building up men and women for the Body of Christ.

This reality was reinforced for Andrew and I the other afternoon when some of the neighbor girls stopped by our house just to talk. They were on their way to the Boys and Girls Club, but they came to our house first to tell us about their day and all the things that they were excited about at school. We barely had time to open the door before one of the girls started pouring out the details of her “grown-up” classes (she is in her first year of Jr. High). I have at times, I admit, felt a twinge of jealousy when the kids talk about what they like to do across the street from us, because we could never offer that program to them on that scale. But sitting on our porch that afternoon confirmed that we are not in competition with the Boys and Girls Club, our functions are completely separate in the lives of our neighbors. We get to be Christ in their lives. What can compete with that? We get to be full-time participants in their lives and put our emphasis on relationships instead of programs and on Christ instead of orthodontia care. Maybe someday the scale of our programs will be able to compliment and collaborate with those of the Boys and Girls Club, but for now we are grateful for the work that they do in our neighborhood and would not for one minute give up the work that God has called us to do. Thank you so much for being a part of our ministry team. Andrew and I are continually grateful that because of you we are allowed to witness and experience what embodying Christ to our neighbors can do to change lives.

For His Kingdom, Andrew & Adria Medlen

Monday, September 8, 2008

To You, My Friend...

We go through most of our lives surrounded by people we care about, good people who laugh with us and even cry with us. We hang out with these good people, work with them, share moments of our day with them, call them our friends. We are blessed to have them. But once in awhile while laughing and crying with a certain person it dawns on you that this person is one of the few who knows exactly what made you laugh and feels the reason you shed tears. With a look you understand their thoughts and in their absence you mentally hear their commentary on the happenings of your life. They get you. And you get them. We are given less of these people to walk through life with but the impact of their friendship fills the greater part of our lives. Sometimes they come and go, like stepping stones meant to keep you headed in the right direction. Sometimes they walk through all of life with you as if they were a part of you born into the world outside of yourself. These people are given special titles that attempt to put a label on what we feel about them. They are known to us as Best Friends, Bosom Friends, Soul Mates, Kindred Spirits, Blood Brothers, and many other terms that feebly describe their significance. These people make the ups and downs of making and keeping friends worth it. As C.S. Lewis says, “Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art…. It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.” The moments you spend in laughter with these people seem all the more joyful and the tears cried on their shoulders all the more meaningful. Time and distance do not dissuade these friendships, although if it were up to you and not the circumstances of life, they would not be far from you for long. My Kindred Spirits and Bosom Friends, you know exactly who you are, I cannot imagine my life without you and I am forever grateful for your love and laughter. Your absence is grieved and your presence is profound in my life. What you act and speak into me is nothing short of a miracle; so much of life’s rapture would be lost without you.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Laniecha and Ja'Marion

Through my relationship with Laniecha and her son Ja'Marion God has taught me a lot about ministry and relationships and has also shown me that my relationship with them is soundly embeded in the greater Body of Christ. You all have been so faithful to pray and to meet needs, which is so meaningful to me, and not entirely lost on Laniecha. The summer was confusing, in which it felt like Laniecha pulled back from wanting to be connected with us, but we are now feeling out where she's at and easing back into their lives. Her family moved much closer to us and so it is a lot easier to just drop in and see how things are going!

As many struggles as she has and as many things as she does the wrong way, I can see in her eyes that she loves that baby boy of hers and she's definitely determined that she will make it to college. Currently she is at one of the local high schools that has a bad reputation; it even has a day care, which speaks to the issues of the neighborhood but is a wonderful blessing for her. She is determined to not get caught up in all the drama and fights at school, and so, between classes and on her lunch she goes down to the day care and spends time with Ja'Marion. And, Ja'Marion, he is the sweetest, most mellow baby I think I have ever seen. God blessed her with an extremely happy baby. He has smiles and little baby chuckles for everyone, but when he sees his momma he lights up and laughs with more excitement. Praise God for giving her a baby who goes to sleep on his own and stays asleep and who is content to just be with his mom. It would be so much more difficult for her to get through school if this wasn't the case

Please continue to pray for them. It is so hard to stay strong in her surroundings. And please continue to pray for Andrew and I as we seek to know the best way to minister to their family. We appreciate you all so much and are grateful that we are never "on our own," because God has given us such a great support system!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

September Update

September 1, 2008

Dear Team,

Mowing the lawn and walking the dog do not seem like prime ministry activities, but I think Adria and I meet more people in our neighborhood by doing these two things than just about anything else we do. Being of a different culture is sometimes like flipping a coin. The coin could land on the side of disadvantage, or it could land on the other side, the side of advantage. In inner-city ministry we definitely experience both sides of the coin. Yet, one of the advantages of being different in any situation is that often people listen to you. They know you are different and so they think that you just might have an answer to their question that is different from what they normally would hear. And sometimes the obvious difference just sparks questions of curiosity that can lead to discussions about our purpose here in the city.

While doing the seemingly mundane we have: had kids come to reconcile relationships after they had a bad day at club; stepped in as mediator when a kid we knew was accused of vandalism; been pointed out as “those white people in our neighborhood” only to have a good conversation about improving the neighborhood; talked about the importance of being part of a church; become acquainted with the local drug dealer, been informed of the history of Dietrich Bonhoffer, fixed numerous bike chains for neighbor kids, listened to a young man wanting to make better life choices, and walked side-by-side with the children we are building relationships with as they clamor for a chance to walk the dog.

When I plan to mow our lawn I plan to mow the lawn, but it is amazing to see how many times God plans for a simple chore to be a meaningful ministry opportunity. We did not inherit my brother’s dog with the intention of meeting people, but God planned him to be a part-time catalyst for relationship building. So often I honestly do not know where to begin to answer their questions or how to help them with their problems. But, this is where my relationship with Christ comes in.

Many people in our community know Adria and I. Some know that we work for World Impact, many know that we are Christians, but all of them know that we are different. In this case our difference can be a huge advantage as we strive to draw their questions toward the only true answer, Jesus Christ. Please pray for us as we continue to mow our lawn and walk our dog, seemingly run of the mill activities, but which in actuality God makes into ministry opportunities. Pray that we will have the wisdom to meet our neighbors with words of hope and healing. Pray that our conversations will turn into long-lasting relationships that lead to salvation through Jesus. It is such an honor to serve Christ in the inner city of St. Louis and to have each of you on our team!

All for our King, Andrew & Adria Medlen

Thursday, August 7, 2008

On life and Camp

There’s something about camp that shows you things about yourself that you didn’t see before. Maybe it’s the oxygen deprivation as you hike miles uphill to canoe around a little pond, or the dingy lighting in the wet and muddy shower houses. Or maybe the incredible starlight that the city never told you was there. Now, our hope is that this will happen for the kids we take and that it will result in their experiencing God in a new way, but it can apply to us too. In fact there’s something about working with youth that shows you things about yourself.

This has been a very long summer. It hasn’t been an easy one. It was one of those times when the rest of life and ministry battled over which could stress me out more. We in the ministry don’t like to admit that there are those times. We tend to wax heroic about things. Well you know, we don’t want God to be embarrassed that things aren’t going exactly how we would want them to. Isn’t that good of us? But the fact is that I have been learning a lot about myself in all of the messiness. Of course, throughout the summer I didn’t feel like I was learning anything except what burn-out feels like, but as I’m gaining a little perspective (albeit only a week of perspective) I’m seeing a little sense in all the madness.

I’ve learned some about my limitations and how important it is to be healthy if your job requires you to constantly pour into others (which is any of us who claim to be Christians). Kids just test your patience plain and simple. And they are so easy to invest your hopes into. Sometimes that is a bad combination because when there’s a rescinding of previous progress made it can feel personal. It’s not of course and that’s something I’m working on.

I came into last week’s camp tired and barely limping along, with my hope being in the moment the last kid was returned to their parents and the summer program was over for me. Needless to say I wasn’t as engaged as I should’ve been and I didn’t have much patience. But another thing I’m learning is that I’m not the lynchpin to all of God’s plans. I don’t personally have to right all the wrongs of the world. Granted I still want to, but it’s impossible, not to mention heretical, to think that the world’s order rests on my highly intelligent reasoning.

There were moments last week when I had to look at a child I wanted to lose it on and repeat this internal mantra/prayer “This is a child of God. This is a child of God.” And it was in those moments I especially realized that ministry left up to me sucks. I’m no good at it. And in the end my worth is directly proportional to what I hand over to God.

And so, I think my biggest lesson this summer is that if I’m not a woman of prayer, I’m worth nothing in God’s plan. Prayer is one of those mysteries of the faith for me. Somehow everything in the world is as God wills it to be, yet He has given us this option for participation in His plan that can actually produce results that wouldn’t otherwise occur if we hadn’t prayed. Is that mind-boggling to anyone else? James tells us that the effective prayer of a righteous man accomplishes much. First and foremost I need to work on being that righteous man, or woman in my case. I’ve felt so far from that this summer. And secondly, I need to be praying! Because I want to accomplish much and this summer made it very obvious to me that I cannot do that on my own.

Camp was a beloved experience for our kids and a tolerated one for me, but one that God was definitely at work in. One of our youngest girls made the decision to follow Christ, and while I’m not sure she actually fully understands, it was another step in her ever evolving awareness of faith. And for me, maybe the dingy light of the muddy shower house lends something of an unnatural clarity because I feel as if I see myself a little clearer and understand with a little more maturity (I hope) my tiny little significant part in God’s plan. So for now, as I sit here with some of the wear of the summer still weighing on me, I’m going to take a deep breath and pray.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

August Update

August 1, 2008

Dear Family and Friends,

Ding-dong. Ding-dong. Diiiiiiiiiiiing-doooooong. On a regular basis Andrew and my doorbell gets a little extra love from an eleven-year-old named Demetrius, or “D. Reid” as he likes to be called. He lives down the block from us and also frequents our youth programs, but it is the many visits he makes to our front porch that has allowed us to get to know D. Reid.

D. Reid is eleven going on thirty. The second oldest with three sisters and a very young and somewhat absent mother, he worries and wonders and takes on responsibility and asks question after question after question. I have never met a more inquisitive child. Sitting on our porch he asks about home ownership, insurance companies, college and financial aid, electricity and generators, and anything else that happens to cross his mind and reach outside his ever-expanding sphere of knowledge.

So old in the way he speaks and acts, it takes really looking into his eyes to see the eleven-year-old D. Reid—lonely, naïve, unsure and desperately seeking guidance. It is this D. Reid who seeks out Andrew for advice and approval and who also falls into the company of other lonely young men lacking guidance, both things propelling him in different directions. And so it has been a summer of battles for D. Reid as he takes steps to do what is right and then falls back into peer pressure. Yet, if there is any kid that I am hopeful for (and I have hope for them all) it is for D. Reid.

Much of our summer program focused on the Gospel message this year. By the end of the summer the kids knew very well what sin is and why Jesus died for our sins. On one particular day we were teaching on Romans 3:23 (“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”) and D. Reid seemed particularly preoccupied and bothered during the devotional. He told Andrew he needed to talk, but soon rescinded and said he had figured everything out.

Later, after Bible Club was over, Andrew was mowing the lawn and I was doing some other chores around the house when D. Reid paid us a few more awkward visits. He finally could bear the guilt no longer and confessed to Andrew that he and another kid had thrown seat backs out the window of their school bus that morning and he felt bad and wanted to make it right. The Holy Spirit had been working on him all afternoon! He said he knew right where they had tossed them out and he wanted to go find them and return them to the bus driver. The three of us took off in our car on a mission to find those bus seats! Being hours after the incident and in a residential area, we were not too hopeful that we would find them but we drove up and down the blocks he remembered several times. We did not see them. Andrew kept telling him that whether or not we found them, he needed to make things right and D. Reid agreed. In one last attempt to locate the seats we got out of our car to search for them and amazingly someone had moved one of the seats off of the street and into an abandoned lot. D. Reid carried it to our trunk and we climbed back in with renewed hope to search for the second one. His breath was short in the backseat with nervousness and excitement, his anxious pants revealing the child making this man-sized decision. On a hunch Andrew drove down the ally and there was the second seat sitting beside a dumpster!

With both seats safely in our trunk, we drove home praising D. Reid for his choice to make things right and encouraging him to take the most difficult step yet, to walk onto the school bus the next morning in front of his bus driver and the other students with the incriminating evidence in his arms. He was going to do it he said. We dropped him off at his house and watched him carry the seats up his house steps. It was one of those moments that makes all the other moments in the day worth it. God is working on this young man’s heart! He followed through and returned the seats the next day, proving that his little boy days are coming to a close and his feet are beginning to walk the steps of a young man. The rest of the summer was not perfect for him. He continues, as we all do, to battle with making wise choices, but at that one moment I saw a glimpse of the man that God wants D. Reid to be and I was honored to play a part in the process.

It is for this reason that Andrew and I are here. Please continue to pray for us as we deepen the relationships made over the summer, and pray for these young men and women in our neighborhood who have so much to overcome, yet who have so much purpose for God’s Kingdom.

For His Kingdom, Andrew & Adria Medlen

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Take me out to the ball game...

Yesterday eight kids decked out it red excitedly gathered at the World Impact on the verge of the much anticipated Christian Family Day fieldtrip. All summer these kids had been working towards earning this fieldtrip. Having limited tickets available, we made this fieldtrip attainable only by the "best of the best." This fieldtrip required the accumulation of the highest amount of points (points earned through attendance, memory verses, and bonus points).

And so, at half past noon we set out in our big brown van for a day full of festivities. First we attended the pre-game carnival where we were given free Chick-fil-A and Coldstone Ice Cream and we played several of their carnival games.

Then we were off to the game! The last few years we have gotten seats at the very top of the stadium, under the shade. So this year, to "sell" our nosebleed tickets to the kids, we pitched them as luxury seats under the shade and open to the cool breeze where you can see everything. So yesterday when we filed into our row, 10 rows down from the shade, still in the nosebleeds, there was a collective groan...."Andrew, you said we were gonna be in the shade"....You told us our seats were in the shade, Andrew." The kids were not happy. (We were not that happy either!) But we acted excited to be closer to the field and began our several hour sit in the roasting sun. It was HOT! But we made it through the game and got a free hot dog and drink with our ticket. Even though it was miserably hot, the kids loved being able to be at a game.

After the game came the concert, and a special part of the program for one of our boys, as he got to go down on the field and meet several of the players.

All in all it was a good day. We came home dead tired and drenched in our own sweat, but the kids had enjoyed the day that they had worked so hard to earn.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

July Update

July 1, 2008

Dear Team,

If you were to come and visit Adria and me in St. Louis on a Thursday evening, you would find me (Andrew) at World Impact helping out with our Men’s Basketball Night. We usually have anywhere from 30-50 guys over the age of 18.

The night consists of three hours of some of the most talented basketball players you would lay eyes on playing some of the toughest basketball you would ever see. About half way through the evening, one of the guys on staff named Jason calls a break and leads a short devotional. Two weeks ago, Jason thought he would try something different. Instead of the usual shared devotional, he thought he would ask the guys if they had any prayer requests, and then he was going to pray for them. The guys started out with shallow requests such as, “Could you pray for my team that is in the NBA playoffs?” But then they started to get a bit more serious.

One guy asked for prayer for a job; another wanted prayer for his housing situation. One young man even asked for prayer that he could get full custody of his baby boy. I was shocked at how open and honest the guys were. After every request was presented, there were about eight to ten petitions. Jason prayed for each of these very real requests.

After the prayer time ended, one of the guys came up to Jason and asked him if he had heard his request. Neither Jason nor I had heard his request because he was talking while someone else was sharing. He said that he wanted prayer for the poverty that he was facing and that his neighbors were up against. He wanted that burden to be lifted. He shared that he really liked the time of prayer and that he really appreciated it. Then another young man came up to me and said he needed a Bible and asked me, “How much will you sell me a Bible for?” I told him that we do not sell Bibles here, but I would gladly give him one. He was shocked at this offer. I told him to come and talk to me before he left.

At the end of the night, he stopped by to see me, and I gave him the option between two versions. He picked the more manly-looking of the two Bibles, and I told him a good place to start was in the Book of James. Since then we have been talking about deeper things, and he is reading the Bible as often as he can.

“How much will you sell me a Bible for?” The sad thing is that some people would have probably taken him up on his deal. I cannot think of a better gift than providing a young man with his first Bible. Just think; you play a vital role in allowing Adria and me to be on the front line in our community. We need and value your praying for us so much! Handing out the Word of God is just the first step. Being here when this young man really needs us in the future is just one of the reasons we are here. This young man could be the next pastor at a local community church. He has so much potential, it is not even funny. Thank you for partnering with us in reaching our neighbors for Christ!

All for our King,

Andrew & Adria Medlen

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Fun in the Sun

This summer has already had so many ups and downs and we are only in week three! With high attendence and a mixture of return kids and new attendees we have been wrestling with discipline issues almost on a daily basis. We have a strong discipline process in place that we passionately believe in, yet we are learning so much about something we thought we already knew so well. Different kids in different situations call for new approaches to our tried and true process. The best part of making this process work is that we get to watch God work on the kids' hearts through redemption. Also fun are the field trips we get to offer as rewards to those kids who have shown good behavior, consistent attendance and growth.

On Friday we got to take 7 kids swimming at a state park pool.
We had a great time...

Then on Saturday several kids were invited to go fishing. Only 2 were able to go, but they had a blast anyway.

Also on Friday evening we had a neighborhood cookout at our house! This wasn't a reward activity, but was open to everyone in our neighborhood. We didn't see as many adults from our neighborhood as we had hoped, but we had lots of kids and had a good time!